The Alchemist

A quick read, but one that I enjoyed.1 And found oddly familiar, to the point that, in spite of my Kindle’s insistence that I’ve never read it, I think I must have, at some point. Quite a while ago, though, because it was at the very end of the list, sorted by ‘recently read/added,’ and it feels less like deja vu than it does just a hint of familiarity.
That said, it’s a lovely little story. It’s a world of magic, but magic with a price:2 every casting of a spell feeds the bramble, a poisonous plant that grows at an unnatural rate. Things haven’t gone well for the world: the ancient kingdoms cast magic without thinking of the fallout3 and fell to the bramble. The protagonist is a man already broken: his wife died, his wealth faded, and his daughter is sick with an unsurvivable illness. Largely because of his choice to fight the bramble rather than continue making expensive trinkets for the rich.
But then, at the very lowest point, as his daughter is about to die, he discovers something: a way to kill the bramble.
And for that moment, you think things are going to go well for him, but he’s not a rich man, and he can’t afford to mass-produce his invention. So he goes to the Mayor. And politics happen.
I won’t say much more than that – a short story gets a short review. But I’ll say that I liked it a lot more than the last book I reviewed. So, without further ado, go give it a read, it’s pretty cheap on Amazon.


  1. I’m going to put in a note here to say that this isn’t the first result that comes up when you search for “The Alchemist,” it’s the one by Paolo Bacigalupi. Entertainingly, the first result is by a different Paolo. 
  2. Which actually might be why this seems familiar – Anatopsis is another great book about the price of magic. I read that book in middle school, forgot the title, and then spent years trawling through the local library trying to find it again. I knew exactly where it should’ve been – in the old building. But in the time between my first reading of it and when I wanted to read it again, the library moved into the nice new building.
    I think I eventually managed to find it with a very strange google search – something like “book talking dog red cover female main character’s name starts with a.” One of those “how in god’s name did Google figure out what I meant?” sort of searches. 
  3. cough-global-warming-cough