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The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia
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The Alchemy of Stone (original 2008; edition 2009)

by Ekaterina Sedia

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4683022,128 (3.8)80
Member:carmenclayton
Title:The Alchemy of Stone
Authors:Ekaterina Sedia
Info:Prime Books (2009), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Read but unowned, Seattle Public Library
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The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia (2008)

  1. 00
    Open Me by Sunshine O'Donnell (bertilak)
  2. 00
    Rats and Gargoyles by Mary Gentle (bertilak)
  3. 00
    The Etched City by K. J. Bishop (rarm)
  4. 02
    The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson (majkia)
    majkia: Both books take place in the midst of social upheaval and both portray worlds far from perfect. The class divisions are highlighted and one sees how so many individuals' lives can easily be diminished in a Victorian sort of steampunk culture.
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» See also 80 mentions

English (29)  Polish (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
I took a chance on this one, finding Sedia on a list somewhere of great undiscovered writers you've never read [possibly on a steampunk list or because her other book, The Secret History of Moscow was recommended by Neil Gaiman, who I still follow despite recent disappointments] and certainly her Russian origin interested me. But the book didn't pull me in like I was hoping it would.

It's an interesting setting she's created, though perhaps not the most original, with alchemists pitted against machinists, with a touch of magical realism (see: gargoyles) sprinkled in. It could have been interesting enough. But why are these two factions competing? Surely their areas of expertise don't overlap enough to make them competitors. And competitors for what? None of that was really explored. Then she threw in a third faction, miners, and really confused the whole thing. The conflict didn't have any roots to pull me along. I just did care.

Nor did I care for most of the characters. The main, and automaton named Mattie, was key to the entire story but she didn't do anything to draw me in. Everyone she interacted with was one dimensional. The only one I did care for was the blind "Soul Smoker" who got killed off in the third act without much narrative reasoning behind it and even he was just there to provide Mattie with information.

I think this could have been so much more. I give it 3 stars just for the quality of the writing (and the translation, which was especially good) and the unusual setting. ( )
  invisiblelizard | Jun 1, 2014 |
This book is about a female clockwork automaton. She's an alchemist living on her own, but she's still technically beholden to her creator, since he has the key. She's hired by gargoyles (real stone gargoyles) to find a way to stop them from petrifying forever.

I picked this up because it was on a list of robot books with a different spin. The book has great world-building, great description. It reminded me of Dishonored or "The Wise Man's Fear" in terms of how sheerly vast this world is. You only see a little bit, only what's on the surface.

The problem was that it was too slow-paced. Few events of significance happen throughout the plot. There's a lot of plates in the air, but they never come down. I felt like the gorgeous writing was compensating for the lack of plot. And the end result was that the style got in the way of the story. Character motivation was lacking too. Or at least I didn't get it. The characters do things, but I never got a sense of their back story to figure out why, or why it was important to them. The non-humans start getting indistinguishable after a while. ( )
  theWallflower | Apr 24, 2014 |
I just could not get into this book. Granted it was due to the library the next day so I skimmed most of it. ( )
  renrav | Sep 22, 2013 |
I feel like an odd one out, here. I expected to love this, and people whose opinions I trust really loved it, often giving it five stars. But it never came together for me: I wasn't sure what the main story was meant to be, what I was meant to take away from it. I never really managed to picture Sedia's world or characters, or connect whatever dots I was meant to connect.

Partially, probably, this is because I didn't want to. The relationship between Mattie and her creator is a powerful one, and he's a disturbing character. I found him cruel, manipulative -- abusive, even. He creates her with the capacity for independence but keeps her chained to him, makes her to serve him but gives her the intelligence to resent it, makes a person with free will in a world that won't accept her as a person at all. He gives her the illusion of freedom, the illusion that she can do and be what she wants, but keeps her close with the horrible joint leash of pity for him and need of his key. He creates an autonomous creature, but then disregards what she wants and needs. The thing about her faces hurt me the most, the way he ignores her preferences and tries to shape her personhood with his own.

It's powerful writing, in that sense, but I didn't connect with it, and I don't think I really wanted to. There are some other really powerful parts, beautiful parts even, but it all seems so sad, so worn down, that I didn't want to feel that power. ( )
2 vote shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
a leisurely-paced tale, far more interesting for the fully realized and multi-dimensional characters than any mechanics of plot. beautiful, lush prose, rich with sensory information (the smell of bleach, the sound of wooden heels tapping) creates an immersive reading experience, but you need to be in the right mood for the thoughtful pace. ( )
  fireweaver | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ekaterina Sediaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Segal, Stephen H.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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We scale the rough bricks of the building's facade. Their crumbling edges soften under our claw-like fingers; they jut out of the flat, adenoid face of the wall to provide easy footholds. We could've used fire escapes, we could've climbed up, up, past the indifferent faces of the walls, their windows cataracted with shutters; we could've bounded up in the joyful cacophany of corrugated metal and barely audible whispers of the falling rust shaken loose by our ascent. We could've flown.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0809572842, Paperback)

Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets - secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona. However, this doesn't sit well with Loharri, the Mechanic who created Mattie and still has the key to her heart - literally! A steampunk novel of romance, political intrigue, and alchemy, The Alchemy of Stone represents a new and intriguing direction by the author of the critically-acclaimed The Secret History of Moscow:

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:53 -0400)

Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets - secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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