Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Review: The Tower's Alchemist (The Gray Tower Series, #1) by Alesha L. Escobar

The Tower’s Alchemist (The Gray Tower Series, #1)

Author: Alesha L. Escobar

Purchase on Amazon.

Synopsis: Wizard Vs. Nazi Warlock Vampires.

It's a very different World War II.

The Nazis have unleashed occult forces throughout Europe and the Allies are forced to recruit and employ wizards to counter their attacks. Among them is the battle weary spy, Isabella George, a Gray Tower dropout trained in Alchemy. Longing for retirement and a life of peace, she accepts one final job-extract a deadly warlock from Nazi occupied France and prevent him from unleashing an alchemical weapon that will devour the continent.

But France is crawling with the Cruenti, vampiric warlocks who feed off other wizards. When things don't go according to plan, one Cruenti sets his deadly eyes on her.

Betrayal is everywhere. Even some of her closest allies cannot be fully trusted. Worse still, she finds, she can't even trust herself. She becomes a woman torn between her charismatic spy lover who offers her what she desires most, and one of her closest confidants, whose soft seductive eyes hold deadly secrets about her past, and the Gray Tower itself.

Plans within plans. Plots versus counter plots. Heists gone wrong, sword-wielding Catholic priests, and the greatest manipulation of history that has ever been seen, is just a taste of what Isabella George is in for, in her final mission.

Brought to you by TeamNerd Reviewer Annabell Cadiz

Review: I haven’t read many historically based fiction but have enjoyed a few of them here and here so when The Tower’s Alchemist came along I was really curious to read how the author would manage pulling off mixing War World II with vampire-like wizards and Alchemist who are trying to take down Hitler. I was pleasantly surprised in many ways by this book.

Isabella George is an undercover agent for the U.S. who send in only their most skilled and trusted Alchemists to not only hunt down information they need but take down seriously deadly enemies. World War II seems as if it will never end and Isabella has decided her hunt for Dr. Heilwig, the wizard who created The Plague—a deadly virus that enters the skin and kills someone painfully slowly—will be her final mission. She dreams of falling in love and having a family but one major problem is the fact that her boyfriend, Ken, is also a secret agent for the U.S. and they barely see each other as it is. On her mission in occupied France, Isabella soon discovers that secrets have been kept from her and the father she thought had died when she was a child, may be alive after all but can she trust the secret messages being sent to her or will they lead her into a trap?

Isabella George is not exactly the type of girl a guy brings home. She’s blunt with her mouth and even tougher with her fists, especially when she uses magic. She’s a Alchemist having been trained by the Gray Tower, an exclusive organization that houses and trains powerful Alchemists. I liked certain aspects to Isabella’s character. She faces her fears head on, has a spine as tough as steel and manages to be vulnerable in just the right way.

The saving grace though of The Tower’s Alchemist is the world building. The author paid very close attention to detail and seamlessly wove the World War II era with the magical abilities of the Alchemists and Wizards. The plot also doesn’t shy away from showcasing the stark reality of what Would War II was really like. Hitler and his soldiers had no remorse, no compassion, no heart. The scenes where people would be killed in the street or taken from the school were heartbreaking. They added a deep realism to a fictional world.

I also really enjoyed the magical elements to the story. The way Isabella would gain her power and rejuvenation from fire or how the gold of a blade could be manipulated. One of my favorite things she can do is throw people back by using magic to manipulate wind. Those were pretty fun moments.

I also liked the Cruenti, warlocks who feed off of Wizards and Alchemists was a nice little twist. Marcellus is the scariest of them all and a great villain. I wouldn’t want to be caught alone (or really even in person) with him. He’s fast, ruthless, and untamed. I liked how dark and prideful he came off. He fit the role of a villain right on point.

But not everything worked in the book. Isabella had the annoying habit of making ridiculous decisions that only managed to place her and others in harm way when there didn’t need to be cause for it. So many people ended up having to sacrifice themselves for her because she was too reckless and lacking common sense to pay attention to the RIGHT details. There were a lot of moments I questioned if she really had any training and why she was considered so important as a spy when she seemed in capable to practicing self-preservation or wise decisions. None of the secondary characters really stood out for me or any of the other main characters (which I’m guessing were Ken, Renee and Dr. Heilwig but honestly I couldn’t really tell). Everyone sounded the same. There wasn’t enough depth to tell the difference between one character or another. Isabella’s narration was one note so it made it really hard to tell who was even speaking if the name of the character wasn’t mentioned.
The pacing was really choppy. The story starts off with intensity than wanes for a good while then attempts picking up but falls short because there is either too much happening in scene a reader can’t grasp all the details or nothing much other than Isabella telling the reader things she deems important. There were many scenes that ended abruptly that I would have liked to have seen better executed. Particularly the scene where Ken and Isabella call it quits. I never believed their romance then it just ended. The ending to the book was okay. It closed the book well enough while leaving room for the second without feeling like a cliffhanger which I did like.

I would venture to say The Tower’s Alchemist was a pretty good beginning to a trilogy with an interesting and unique concept.

Fans of both historical and spy fiction will most likely have a good time with much of this book. 

About the Author: Alesha Escobar writes fantasy and urban fantasy stories to support her chocolate habit. She earned a B.A. in English Writing and a Master of Science in Education, and has enjoyed both teaching writing and being a writer. Her hobbies include reading, watching movies, and making crafts. She is currently working on the final installment of The Gray Tower Trilogy. 

Where to Find the Author


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