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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Book Review: Alchemystic by Anton Strout

Alchemystic (The Spellmason Chronicles #1)
By: Anton Strout

Alexandra Belarus is a struggling artist living in New York City, even though her family is rich in real estate, including a towering Gothic Gramercy Park building built by her great-great-grandfather. But the truth of her bloodline is revealed when she is attacked on the street and saved by an inhumanly powerful winged figure. A figure who knows the Belarus name…

Lexi’s great-great-grandfather was a Spellmason—an artisan who could work magic on stone. But in his day, dark forces conspired against him and his, so he left a spell of protection on his family. Now that Lexi is in danger, the spell has awoken her ancestor’s most trusted and fearsome creation: a gargoyle named Stanis.

Lexi and Stanis are equally surprised to find themselves bound to each other. But as they learn to work together, they realize that only united can they save the city they both love…

Urban fantasy has more than its fair share of monsters, but I don't recall too many gargoyles appearing in the genre. Well, maybe Anton Strout had a similar mindset and decided to feature one in the first book of his new series, the Spellmason Chronicles.

Lexi is a struggling artist, at least in her mind. She's the daughter of one of New York's wealthiest real estate magnates, so I wonder how much of her life is a genuine struggle. She's attacked on her way home one night, until her attacker suddenly disappears, then shows up dead in the park next door, like the fella had been dropped from a great height--and his head caved in by something with incredible strength.

She doesn't know it yet, but she has a guardian angel. Or rather a guardian gargoyle, a dormant being alive once more named Stanis that's awakened with an innate compulsion to protect Lex and her family. Lexi's brother doesn't fair as well, however, as he's seemingly crushed underneath a collapsed building owned by their family. Some unknown entity is out to destroy the family, and as Lexi investigates she quickly realizes it's all connected to her family's secret past and the mysterious creature watching over her from above.

It took a considerable amount of reading before I started to think of Lexi as anything other than a spoiled brat. She's downright precious compared to the rest of her family, with a domineering father, emotionally detached mother, and near-sociopathic brother, but being the best of a bad bunch isn't exactly an endearing quality. Her progression through the novel helps her improve somewhat, as she discovers her abilities as a Spellmason (someone with the ability to control and manipulate stone), but by the end of the book I still didn't find her all that likable.

As for Stanis, the gargoyle conflicted with concealing his existence from humanity and protecting Lexi, he had an enjoyable fish-out-of-water appeal. There's a surprisingly dark tinge to the character though, considering how light and campy the tone of this novel is. In the backdrop of a new adult adventure story, Stanis is an unsophisticated and violent character, showing no qualms in delivering vicious beatdowns on Lexi's enemies. That's tempered with a growing attraction to her and comedic interactions with her two best friends.

The dialogue is stilted in a few spots, wooden in others, but the action and mystery throughout the novel are handled well, with enough laid out at the end of the novel to properly set up the sequel due out later this year. In TV terms, I had my hopes up for something with a bit of a Buffy vibe, and wound up with a book more akin to Charmed. If you're a fan of that, you're in for a treat. Anything more than that, you might feel let down.

3 1/2 Sheep

Guest Review: Gef Fox
Wag The Fox  

About the Author:
Sammy The Xylophone Playing Cat
Fantasy author Anton Strout was born in the Berkshire Hills mere miles from writing heavyweights Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville and currently lives in the haunted corn maze that is New Jersey (where nothing paranormal ever really happens, he assures you). 

He is the author of the Simon Canderous urban fantasy series and Alchemystic, book one of the upcoming Spellmason Chronicles for Ace Books, a division of Penguin Group (USA). Anton is also the author of many short tales published in anthologies by DAW Books.

The Once & Future Podcast is his latest project, where he endeavors as Curator of Content to bring authors and readers together through a weekly news show format.

He has been a featured author guest of honor, speaker and workshop leader at San Diego Comic-Con, Gencon, New York Comic-Con, the Brooklyn Book Festival and many other conventions.
In his scant spare time, his is a writer, a sometimes actor, sometimes musician, occasional RPGer, and the worlds most casual and controller smashing video gamer. He currently works in the exciting world of publishing and yes, it is as glamorous as it sounds.

1 comment:

  1. I do want to read this book, I do enjoy gargoyles. Marjorie M. Liu has a book and story about them. And of course there is Biz in the Kim Harrison books. But I will wait with the buying until the reviews of the second book are written.