Book Review: The Alchemy Thief by R. A. Denny

  • Title: The Alchemy Thief (Pirates & Puritans #1)
  • Author: R. A. Denny
  • Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Time Travel, Science Fiction
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Would I recommend: Yes. This was a great start to the series!

From Goodreads:

When the secrets of the past threaten to destroy the future.

A tale of hope, resilience, and the indomitable spirit of a woman, this sweeping epic spans the Atlantic from New England to Morocco during the Age of Exploration.

2019: A young woman finds a relic engraved with a mysterious symbol off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Terrorists in Morocco steal a 17th-century book engraved with the same symbol. As the woman struggles to unravel the secrets behind the symbol, her life changes in ways she could never have imagined.

1657: Transported back in time, she meets the alchemist, John Winthrop, Jr. who is plotting to lure the greatest scientific minds to the New World. But the more she learns, the more she fears for the lives of the loved ones she left behind.

In a stunning twist of fate, a modern terrorist has traveled into the past, where he has become a Barbary Corsair. He has plans of his own. And he will stop at nothing to succeed. 

My review:

I enjoy a good time travel read, and this one had a bit of a different take on it. Here, time travel involves alchemy.

Ayoub is a Moroccan boy, growing up Muslim, learning what can only be called terrorist ways. When he is helping his mother steal a book from a museum, things go wrong. His mother loses her life, and Ayoub is on the run with this book. Inside it he finds an artifact of some kind. The artifact whisks him to the days of the Barbary pirates through a ball of light.

Experience Fuller (or Peri, as she understandably prefers to be called in this modern world) is a freshman in college. She’s looking forward to enjoying the college experience, and she’s flattered and maybe a bit overwhelmed when Liam, an older student, takes a romantic interest in her. She discovers an artifact in the shallow waters off Martha’s Vineyard. During a storm, the artifact attracts ball lightning, and much like Ayoub, Peri is transported back in time. She finds herself in the era of the Puritans.

Ayoub is rescued by a pirate crew. He resolves to become captain of his own ship, and then use the artifact to travel forward in time and bring modern weapons back. His goal is then to establish the Caliphate before America becomes a nation powerful enough to fight against them.

Peri is rescued from the water by a group that includes Daniel, a Wampanoag who has converted to Christianity and is training to become a minister. She ends up meeting her ancestors and, by the by, Connecticut Governor John Winthrop, Jr. Winthrop is an alchemist, and Peri is able to learn about alchemy from him in hopes of figuring out how she can get back home. She has realized that there’s a connection between her artifact and a book she’d seen on her travels, and between the book and terrorist activity.

Ms. Denny clearly did her research on this book. The historical detail is almost an education in itself! I’m not a huge student of history, and I never really think about what else was going on in the world when studying one aspect of history. This book helped me do just that. The Barbary pirates were the terrorists of their day, so it seems fitting that our time travelers should end up in similar situations when they were transported back – Ayoub with like-minded fellows, Peri with the Americans that will be.

Peri was a little dithery at first, and I really wanted to scream at her when she was so infatuated with Liam. He just seemed off to me (and indeed, he is). But I thought about what I was like at that age, and realized I was probably very similar to Peri when I headed off to college. Ayoub is slightly terrifying in his single-mindedness and his determination to bring 21st-century havoc to the 17th century.

The book doesn’t have a cut and dried ending. It’s rather a cliffhanger. I loathe cliffhangers, because it means I have to wait to get my hands on the next book, and I hate waiting. So I’m anxiously looking forward to seeing how the story continues. Will Ayoub succeed? Will Peri stop him? Will Peri find a way to stay with Daniel, or to bring him with her back to modern times? How will that even work? I have so many questions!

I recommend this if you like well-researched and detailed historical fiction, time travel, and a little bit of romance. It’s a lot of fun, and I look forward to reading more.

Disclaimer: Thanks to the author for an advance copy of the book. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books that I don’t really like.

This entry was posted in Adventure, ARC Reads, Book Reviews, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Time Travel, Young Adult and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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