That feeling you get from exploring a good story. A bookish podcast discussing and reviewing books and films as I journey through my ever growing TBR backlog and watchlist.

The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian

Ancient alchemy, a main character that’s been alive for hundreds of years, a murder mystery and a living gargoyle that is dying? What’s not to love?

The Accidental Alchemist
Title: The Accidental Alchemist
Genres: ,
Page Count: 9h 49m
Published: 01/08/2015
Categories: ,
Zoe Faust, an 300 year old alchemist, has just moved to a new home in Portland. She finds a living gargoyle has stowed away in her shipping crates from Paris and needs her help deciphering his special book because he's dying. The next morning the handyman she's hired to do some work on her new home is found dead on her front porch and Zoe finds herself in the middle of a magical murder mystery.

Going into this I had never heard of this author and knew nothing at all of this book. I decided to give it a listen on a whim because my July was SO full of disappointing reads that were mired in 2-3 star territory. While I can absolutely understand some of the criticism of this book and also understand it only landed at another 3 star read for myself, it’s also a terrific story to enjoy as a quick palette cleanser.

While it has some problems, there is a lot to enjoy IF you get past one big issue. It’s NOT a fantasy novel.

Even though our main character is an alchemist that has been alive for hundreds of years, even though one of our other main characters is a gargoyle that is alive, and even though the mystical arts of alchemy are talked about often… this is NOT a fantasy novel and those elements are present as a little extra seasoning to add a layer of interest to an otherwise cozy mystery story with a heavy focus on the themes of found family and embracing your individuality.

When we look at the characters in this book, you won’t find anything all that deep. There are no sweeping character arcs to pull you in because honestly, the entire story takes place over just a week or so. With that in mind, I’m ok with there not being any super deep character growth.

That’s not to say there isn’t SOME, as we see Zoe, Dorian, and Brixton all experience a level of understanding and growth as they form their own “family” unit. While they all have secrets, they all find comfort in knowing they can be themselves around each other. And as they work together to solve the mystery of the murder as well as find the stolen book and attempt to save Dorian, they draw closer together and find support where they maybe didn’t have it previously.

The characters are fine, not outstanding, but serviceable. The focus of this story is the plot and the unraveling of the mysteries surrounding the murder, the theft of the book, oh yeah… also the “will they won’t they” romance angle from Detective Max and Zoe.

As a mystery, this is just interesting enough to keep you hooked, but not intense enough to make you unable to stop “flipping pages”, or in this case listening to “just one more chapter”.

Thinking back on my experience with The Accidental Alchemist, this feels very much like a YA murder mystery. Something akin to my childhood days with Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, or even Scooby Doo.

Sure there are some threats here and there, but largely nothing feels too terribly dire.

It’s a good, cozy murder mystery.

Unfortunately it’s ALSO trying to be a fantasy novel. While I LOVE the fantasy genre, this book honestly suffered a bit because it tried so hard to bring the fantasy elements in, though they largely felt unnecessary and unexplored.

The concept of a hundreds of years old Alchemist and her living gargoyle friend has a lot of cool potential. But not when it’s somewhat forced into every conversation in an attempt to make the book FEEL more mystical than it really was.

If you want a good book that explores a modern fantasy feel with a main character alive for hundreds of years, read The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab. The Accidental Alchemist isn’t the best version of that story in my opinion.

That being said, at the end of the day, I found this book to be very enjoyable and a great palette cleanser after a pretty dismal July reading schedule. Forget about the fact it’s fantasy, just enjoy a good cozy mystery, some wonderful found family and self discovery moments, and a healthy dose of food love from a certain French gargoyle with a passion for the kitchen.

Yes, it’s yet ANOTHER three star read, but it was much more enjoyable than most I read in July, even with it’s problems.

The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian gets 3 out of 5 stars.

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