Ash Woods has waited all his life to be an alchemist, but when he's rejected by the prestigious Lancaster Mage's College, he's forced to practice alchemy in secret.
INFINITY ALCHEMIST by Kacen Callender gives us Ash's story that at points will have you on the edge of your seat!
It's dangerous business, because alchemy is illegal in New Anglia, but to Ash it's worth the risk. He accepts the job as assistant groundskeeper at Lancaster, and perfects his craft in the shadows, eavesdropping on classes and practicing in secret. That is, until he's caught by Ramsay. Ramsay is the heir to the once-great Thorne family, fallen from grace when his parents committed the mass-murder of hundreds of people in pursuit of the famed Book of Source, which grants its reader unlimited and extraordinary power. Rather than turning Ash into the Reds, Ramsay offers him an alternative: he can help Ramsay find the Book of Source to clear his family's name and Ramsay will teach him alchemy in secret.
The problem is, there are some pretty powerful players who also want the Book of Source, and for far more nefarious reasons.
This was a stunning fantasy debut. The world building was heavy but also easy to follow along with, and you're totally immersed in the spirit of New Anglia and the fear and mistrust of alchemists. There are so many parallels to real life that, especially in the connection between House Loon and religious zealots that we've all likely encountered in our world. There's a lot of angst, and a lot of frustrating teenagers, but I think that all readers should keep in mind that these are teenagers. They're impulsive and frustrating and will absolutely drive you insane because they are actual children in a pretty freaking scary situation. They all have some pretty fickle feelings, especially in terms of relationships, but to me, that made it all the more realistic. I was all over the place as a teenager, so it tracks that teenaged characters would be, too! I also always love how, in all of the Kacen Callender books I've read so far, the villains are awful, but they're NEVER going to intentionally mis-gender someone, or be homophobic. They'll kill you, happily, but they're not going to stoop that low, which is such a lovely world that I wish would bleed over into our world. Respecting who someone is, even if they're your enemy, is just so, so, soooo inspiring to read. That's to say nothing of the diverse cast of LGBTQIA+, polyamorous, and people of color representation, which we know to expect and fall in love with in any book Kacen writes!
Kacen does a fantastic job of pace on this book--so much so that while listening to the audiobook, I couldn't have told you how long had passed, I was so invested in what was going to happen next that the book kind of flew by, even as it took me a few days because, ya know, life. I could've used some of Ash and Co's alchemic skills to take care of all of those, am I right?
Trust and believe, INFINITY ALCHEMIST will work its magic on you.
Love and magic you didn't even know you had,
NOTE: I read an advanced copy of this book via audiobook, and any misspellings are unintentional. I did not, at the time of writing this review, have a text to reference. In addition, Ramsay Thorne is gender-fluid, and his pronouns change throughout the book. The pronouns in my review shift to fit my memory of Ramsay during the scenes I'm referencing. When asked which pronoun to use, Ramsay said something along the lines of, "however you last saw me." My changing of Ramsay's pronouns in this review is my attempt to respect those wishes and use the pronouns that were used in the scene as they happened.
Disclaimer: I received an audiobook copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, and have voluntarily written this review with my honest feedback. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop.org affiliate link above, I will receive a small commission and you'll support local indies! If you purchase a copy using my Amazon affiliate link above, I will receive a small commission which I will use to justify my literary addictions and to spoil my dogs (probably).