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Alchemystic (A Spellmason Chronicle) by Anton Strout
Cover Artist: Blake Morrow
Review by Drew Bittner
Ace Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781937007799
Date: 25 September 2012 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Alexandra Belarus is a struggling artist and the daughter of a wealthy New York family. When an untimely death propels her into the family real estate business, Lexi finds that her family has a guardian--and a secret. But unless she can fathom these mysteries, and fast, Lexi and her friends might find that even the help of a living gargoyle won't save them.

In Alchemystic by Anton Strout, Lexi Belarus is a young New Yorker whose family business (as far as she knows) is real estate. But things change when a mysterious sect with an ancient grudge attacks Lexi, and she is saved by a monstrous gargoyle who comes to life at night. This grotesque, named Stanis, has been bound to protect her family from long years past--but why?

Lexi learns that her great-grandfather Alexander was a spellmason, a wizard with power over the materials of the earth itself. Lexi discovers his notebooks and begins to master these powers for herself, but learns that the sect has some of these abilities as well. If she hopes to survive their growing onslaught, she must do something her ancestor didn't: she must make Stanis complete. By seeking out and incorporating a handful of magic stones into her guardian, Lexi can make Stanis powerful enough to keep her alive.

But things do not go smoothly. Despite the help of her friend Rory and Rory's roommate Michael, Lexi must face the Servants of Ruthenia with the skills of a novice, while the dangerous and desperate Kejetan is far more accomplished. Unless she succeeds in her quest, the Servants will claim Alexander's knowledge for themselves…and commence a reign of magical terror in New York City itself.

Set in the same New York as Strout's Simon Canderous novels, Lexi is an interesting new heroine whose powers might make a reader think "why didn't anyone do this before?" Spellmasonry, and what it means to the Belarus family and New York itself, opens up large worlds for Strout to create something new and different--which he begins quite nicely in this novel.

Lexi shares some similarities with other urban fantasy heroines. She is a rebellious young woman with a strict, very successful family, who is nevertheless coopted into their endeavors and must regain her freedom. Her artistic qualities mesh well with how spellmasonry is described, in terms of going beyond architecture and into the very essence of the stone itself. How grotesques are animated is also interesting, and suggests new possibilities for future stories.

Stanis (who is co-protagonist; he narrates about half of the chapters, splitting that duty with Lexi) is also quite a character. At first seeming like a figure out of the TV show Gargoyles (as someone drily notes), he has a backstory that unfolds in intriguing fashion. Every addition gives him more insight into who he is and what his mission means—and the climax is truly uncommon, with a resolution that will surprise and delight readers.

Strout has quite a strong series debut here and I, for one, look forward to future adventures.

Recommended.

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