The Alchemists of Loom (Loom Saga #1) by Elise Kova
Release date: 10.01.2017 by Keymaster Press
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 5/5 stars – ★★★★★
I received this book from the publisher (through Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way.
Synopsis: Ari lost everything she once loved when the Five Guilds’ resistance fell to the Dragon King. Now, she uses her unparalleled gift for clockwork machinery in tandem with notoriously unscrupulous morals to contribute to a thriving underground organ market. There isn’t a place on Loom that is secure from the engineer turned thief, and her magical talents are sold to the highest bidder as long as the job defies their Dragon oppressors. Cvareh would do anything to see his sister usurp the Dragon King and sit on the throne. His family’s house has endured the shame of being the lowest rung in the Dragons’ society for far too long. The Alchemist Guild, down on Loom, may just hold the key to putting his kin in power, if Cvareh can get to them before the Dragon King’s assassins. When Ari stumbles upon a wounded Cvareh, she sees an opportunity to slaughter an enemy and make a profit off his corpse. But the Dragon sees an opportunity to navigate Loom with the best person to get him where he wants to go. He offers her the one thing Ari can’t refuse: A wish of her greatest desire, if she brings him to the Alchemists of Loom.
In May of this year, I finally read Air Awakens by Elise Kova. I’d seen so many people raving about this fantasy series, so I figured I should give it a try too. I ended up really liking it (I gave it a 4 out of 5 stars) but felt like something was lacking in it. I had no such feelings with this book. The Alchemists of Loom was absolutely incredible, and I’m so grateful I got a review copy through Netgalley. I’ll definitely be buying the sequel when it is released.
The Alchemists of Loom takes place in Loom and its territories. To make everything more clear, I’ll insert the map I found on Elise Kova’s website below.
As you can see, Loom is divided into different territories -and instead of city names, most of the territories and cities are numbered. Each territory belongs to a Guild. There are 5 Guilds: the Ravens (Ter. 4), the Alchemists (Ter. 2), the Harvesters (Ter. 1), the Rivets (Ter. 3) and the Revolvers (Ter. 5). They all have special skills and provide different services. The story starts in Dortam (which as you can see lies in Ter. 5) with Arianna and Florence. There’s a lot of travel in this book, so I was grateful for this amazing map. Not only did it help me track the progress, but it clearly shows the different Guild territories too. I have to admit that I was a tad confused at times, keeping track of the different Guilds and what it is they do? Maybe it was just me, but I got a bit confused with Rivets, Revolvers, Ravens.
The travel in this book happens through different methods: on foot, via train, via airship, underground carts, etc. The steampunk element was such a welcome surprise! I love the addition of those elements in fantasy books, yet I don’t read enough of it.
There are three different races (or species?) in this book. Dragons, Fenthri and Chimera. The Fenthri are basically humans (and are white or ash colored usually), and Chimera are humans with Dragon organs/parts. Because the Chimera have Dragon organs, they can command magic too. And then there are Dragons. Dragons have exotic coloring, depending on the dominant parent (for example, if the mother is dominant in her relationship and her skin is blue, so will her childrens’ skin be). I thought that was so much fun!
Loom is ruled by the Dragon King, and the Fenthri are basically the slaves of the Dragons. They are forced to mark their cheeks with the symbol of their Guild. If you are born into a Guild, that’s what you’ll study. If you don’t pass the Guild tests, you die. Before the Dragons conquered Loom, people were free to study what they wanted, and join a Guild of choice.
I loved this world. I loved how Loom was divided into Guilds, how the Guilds used to support each other and each formed a link in the bigger chain of Loom. I loved the steampunk elements, the revolvers with magic power, the explosives Florence created, the gliders used so dragons can fly. I loved piecing together the history of Loom, before and after the dragons conquered it.
This book was so fast-paced. I was absolutely hooked! Before I started this one, I was reading Snakewood which is a very slow read. I felt like I was in a slump, even though I wasn’t? But then I picked this one up… I read it in 2 days I think -and the only reason I didn’t finish it in one is because I had appointments to go to.
I don’t want to say too much about the plot, because that’ll spoil the experience of reading it for you. But the story starts when Arianna, The White Wraith, discovers an unconscious dragon while finishing a job. She tries to cut out his heart. That’s when she discovers he’s not actually unconscious. He offers her a deal: she’ll get a boon (which is any wish she can ask of him) if she brings him to the Alchemists. That’s not an offer Arianna can ignore. So she agrees.
So we follow Arianna, her student Florence and the dragon Cvareh while they travel through the Territories. Like I said, I was hooked. I read big chunks of this book without even realizing it. At one point, I looked at my Kindle app and saw that I had reached the 94% mark. And I sat there, thinking: NO! IT CAN’T END YET. I just want to keep reading about these characters, and this world.
This book is told from multiple POVs. The main ones are Ari, Florence and Cvareh -but there are also little chapters from Leona and Petra.
Let’s start with Arianna, or Ari/The White Wraith. It took me a while to figure out how old Arianna was, so I’ll save you the trouble. She’s 22. I’m already insanely happy about that fact, because I AM 22! And I feel a bit underrepresented in terms of age in (fantasy) novels. Ari is an amazing woman. She’s a Master Rivet, but she is unmarked. She became a master before the dragons took over their society, and refuses to mark herself -therefore becoming illegal. She hates dragons with a fiery passion, and that’s why she became The White Wraith. She’ll take any job that ends up screwing over a dragon. She’s a thief, a harvester at times, and just plain genius. I loved her complex character and history. I really enjoyed seeing her development, and the fierce loyalty to her student and best friend. I love great friendships in books, and I think Florence and Arianna’s friendship is just so beautiful.
Next up, Florence. Florence is a few years younger than Arianna is -and does not remember Loom not being under dragon-rule. She was born a Raven, but would have never passed her tests. So she fled, and met Arianna. Florence has always wanted to be a Revolver, which is how Arianna is training her. I loved Florence. She was so kind and honest, without being naive. She was smart, had certain fears but tried to conquer them, and an amazing friend. The female friendship in this book was so great! Florence and Arianna balance each other out, and they obviously care deeply for one another. Florence is the kind of girl/woman to look up to.
Lastly, we have Cvareh. Our little blue dragon. I really liked Cvareh too. There is an intense hierarchy in the dragon world, and his family is sort of the lowest of dragon society. Thanks to his sister Petra however, they have a chance of changing that. They want to overthrow the Dragon King and put their family on top. I loved his sense of pride at being a dragon, his loyalty to his family, learning about his magical abilities, and seeing him adjust to traveling with a Fenthri and a Chimera. Some of the descriptions were so funny, like the fact that he was unnerved/disgusted by a straight row of teeth -and the absence of canines- in humans. I was definitely rooting for him.
If you can’t already tell, I am urging you to pick this book up once it is released. It’s honestly so good, I enjoyed it even more than Air Awakens (although I’ve only read the first book). It features amazing characters with incredible skills, friendships, loyalty, family, rebellion, steampunk elements and travel. It’s got everything I love.