In a world where the rich have the means to stay young forever and the poor are barely scraping by, orphaned Zilan has lofty dreams of rising out of poverty and becoming a royal alchemist. In the meantime, she will practice the illegal alchemy of resurrecting the dead to make sure she and her family continue to survive. When the time comes for her to take the imperial exam, she finds herself on the way to the capital to compete against the the best alchemists in the country despite all the odds stacked against her. But the more time she spends in the capital, the more she gets sucked into a dangerous plot within the walls of the palace and it’s only a matter of time before things come to a head.

I went into this book knowing two things: it was about an alchemist and Kylie Lee Baker wrote it. And, honestly, that’s all I needed to know! Baker has a masterful way of weaving stories that are filled with magic, action, and romance without ever feeling like you are being overwhelmed by any one thing. This particular tale of alternate history added a touch of political intrigue to the mix as well.

The world building is breathtaking, the characters are enchanting, and the story takes you on an adventure that feels meant for the big screen. Despite some plot points being easier to deduce than others, I was completely enthralled and found myself on the edge of my seat waiting for the twists that I was sure were coming. Baker does not shy away from putting her characters through the wringer and the story flourishes because of it (even if it does crush my heart at times).

Zilan is a captivating heroine who has a bit of a chip on her shoulder because of the discrimination she faces due to being biracial. Even with the odds stacked against her, she finds a way to get the job done. She is a thoroughly complicated character who is no stranger to loss and, even if her losses feel greater than she can hold, she still manages to focus on the greater good, a feat that sometimes puts her well-being and that of those she loves on the line.

THE SCARLET ALCHEMIST is the first in a new historical fantasy duology from the beautiful mind of Kylie Lee Baker. It’s available now so pick up your copy here before the sequel hits shelves next year!

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."