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Crescent Blues Book ViewsThistledown Press (Trade Paperback), ISBN 1894345797

The Alchemist's Daughter by Eileen Kernaghan mixes historical fact with the magic of alchemy to tell the tale of a gifted young woman in Elizabethan England. Sidonie Quince's father believes himself to be on the verge of discovering how to turn base metal into gold. Confident in his abilities, he promises to deliver this new gold to Queen Elizabeth.

Book: eileen kernaghan, the alchemists daughter
Sidonie, however, holds a much more practical estimate of her father's talents. Afraid of the consequences of his inevitable failure, she convinces her friend Kit to accompany her on a trip to the legendary Glastonbury Abbey. There she intends to find the missing ingredient needed to help her father's alchemy experiments succeed. Instead she uncovers court intrigue, a plot to kill the queen, and a new confidence in her own ability to scry.

Kernaghan posses a fine talent for rendering the historical past into terms easily understood by the modern reader. The level of detail on everything from food to clothing to common swindling practices shows the breadth of her research, but the details never overshadow the story or the characters. Sidonie, her father and Kit are fully realized, and the reader enjoys spending a few hours with them. Even the characters based on historical figures such as Queen Elizabeth and her spymaster Frances Walshingham spring to life as believable people. Readers familiar with the Harry Potter books may enjoy Kernaghan's references to the real Nicholas Flamel, said to have created the Philosopher's Stone.

Kernaghan packs an astounding amount of history into her book, everything from religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants to fears of the plague. Such details create a rich world against which the precocious Sidonie may act. Younger readers will enjoy the action-based plot while older readers will appreciate the blend of fantasy with reality and Kernaghan's beautiful prose.

Kathryn Yelinek

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