Saturday, December 21, 2013

Shadows of the Alchemist

Shadow of the Alchemist
Jeri Westerson
Minotaur Books
St.. Martin's Press
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-1-00030-9
October 2013
$ 25.99
305 pages

According to Shakespeare, Richard II was a memorable and fickle ruler of England. That was part of the reason that eventually he was deposed. While he ruled, those he did not favor, were frequently executed. Fortunately for Crispin Guest, he only lost his riches, land, and life of privilege. However, how does someone who has only lived the noble life adjust to living on the streets?
Crispin Guest discover that he possesses a natural gift of being a tracker. He logically views the evidence of a crime that leads him to the culprit. Basically, a tracker is a private investigator for hire during the Middle Ages. Frequently, this places him in opposition to the local law enforcement being the Sheriffs.

Living a hand to mouth existence is difficult with always being on the edge of survival. Due to the brutal circumstances of life, Crispin also as a young apprentice who previously had been an orphaned and survived by thieving. Jack Tucker feels fortunate to be able to learn from the legendary tracker, Crispin Guest.
Nicholas Flamel, famed alchemist, hires Crispin to rescue his missing wife who has been kidnapped. However, the ransom is the famed Philosopher's Stone, the legendary stone created from lead and turned to gold and immortality. Does the stone really work? Does Flamel have the knowledge of immortality?   This is "Shadow of the Alchemist" by Jeri Westerson.

Jeri Westerson's writing is magical in that she literally transports you into a different time and place. She is masterful with all the small details of a setting establishing the sights, sounds, and smells of London in the late 1300s for the reader without the dangers of actually being there.
In “Shadow of the Alchemist”, the characters are believable intermixing with real historical people making these people come to life. Especially for someone like Nicholas Flamel is daring since he was a real alchemist of the late Middle Ages even though he is also known for being in the Harry Potter series. Jeri Westerson's story shows a deeper insight into the person while adding depth and a deeper understanding to the problems of the time within the story.
“Shadow of the Alchemist”is the fifth book in the Crispin Guest series by Jeri Westerson following "Veil of Lies", "Serpent in the Thorns", The Demon's Parchment", "Troubled Bones", and "Blood Lance”. Each of these books is rich in the history of the late Middle Ages with life in England during Richard III. All of these books can be read as stand-a-lone novels. With Jeri Westerson's writing style, once you begin any of these books, you will want to read all of them. Warning, once you begin any of her books, you will want to read all of them. Her books are addictive.
Coincidentally, I was watching the video, "The Hollow Crown" about Shakespeare's Richard II while reading this book. It was fascinating how both helped me to visualize the events and to better understand this ruler in the DVD and the novel.
Anyone who enjoys historical fiction, will be mesmerized by “Shadows of the Alchemist”.
Personally, if I had to return to London in the year of 1388, I would want Crispin Guest to be my guide and am delighted to view the story through his eyes and not to have to experience it myself.

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