Author: Samantha Cohoe
Publisher: Wednesday Books
First Published: 13 October 2020
“If alchemy was our religion, then we were its priests. We held the power, and we would reap the rewards, but the burdens were ours alone.”
I will start by saying that I was given an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own. Thank you so much Meghan Harrington and team at Wednesday Books for sending a copy my way. I am very thankful for be part of this Blog Tour.
Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.
While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.
But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.
I was drawn to this book because I adore the idea of building a magic system around alchemy, which is the medieval science of changing basic substances, metals mostly, into something else. This was everything I love in my dark, YA fantasy. I was captivated from the start.
Thea’s whole life has been limited to helping her mother’s work. She longs to become an alchemist in her own right and be rid of the shadows of her famous mother. Madness, greed and murder quickly become part of her life the closer they come to creating the infamous Philosopher’s Stone. She flees to England and to a father she’s never known after her mother attempts to kill her in a fit of madness. Thea needs to create the stone to save mother, the boy she loves, Will, and her new friend, Dominic.
Thea’s voice is distinct and grabbed me right away. While she’s not always the most likeable of characters, I was engaged in her story. She has been kept pretty isolated; her world is limited to her mother and their patrons. She’s intelligent and determined. I adored that others didn’t easily influence her opinions and instead she took her time to gather information and make up her mind, which is incredible for a 17-year-old.
I was a little bit worried that we would have a love triangle when we were introduced to Dominic but thankful that was not the case. Instead, a beautiful friendship formed between the two. It just warmed my heart to see it, especially after most of the people in her life seem to be only interested in what her skills and knowledge can do for them.
I will say that it’s a shame that although Thea is a fantastic, strong female character it was little disappointed about the lack of female characters. There is a handful but they don’t have a great deal of adjacency in the narrative along. While I get that Cohoe may have chosen this to help to highlight the gender expectations of the time and also Thea’s lack of power, it would still have been nice to see more girl power.
I have loved reading books set in or around the French Revolution. Samantha Cohoe nailed it the setting. I felt like I was sucked in the 1790s from the very first page. I adored the juxtaposition between the reality of the culture and events mixed with the whimsical idea of what if alchemy was real and we could turn lead into gold. In this alternative reality, alchemy is just another science you can study, like chemistry or medicine.
I don’t know much about the lore surrounding the Philosopher’s Stone — apart from what’s mention in the first Harry Potter —but it was interesting to explore and learn more about it.
A Golden Fury is a fantastic debut. I’m not sure if we will be getting more from this world and I cannot wait to see what Cohoe writes next. Perfect for fans of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series and The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series.