The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
No spoilers and colorful language abound! I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My dislike for this book is palpable. DNF at 55%. I don't always rate books I don't finish, however I made it more than halfway through and it never got better.
OK. Here is the skinny. We have Zoe, a 300 year old begrudging alchemist who has just moved to Portland in hopes of finding her way back to who she once was. Sounds amazing. Too bad it's actually a gross vegan smoothie recipe book instead of a kickass fantasy novel. I'm getting ahead of myself...let me back up a second.
After accidentally discovering the elixir of life while studying with Nicolas Flammel, Zoe goes on to become a healer of sorts, utilizing her special talents with plants to make healing tinctures throughout the years. Constantly reinventing herself as a closely resembled granddaughter, she carries on much like this for many years, until one day she turns her back on alchemy, and the painful memories attached to it. The time has come for Zoe to reconnect to her roots, so she moves to Portland in hopes of finding her way slowly back into alchemy. That is, until Dorian, a flipping French gargoyle pops out of a moving crate she had shipped from France. The stowaway Dorian is desperate for Zoe's assistance in deciphering a very old alchemy text, that will hopefully have the cure to save him from a fate worse than death.
That little paragraph I just wrote out contains the books only interesting quality, the premise. It's all down hill from there. Zoe is above all things, a disappointment. She is old as fuck yet has the maturity of 30-something without any direction or drive. Dorian is turning to stone and will be trapped in a body of rock with his mind alive and intact for-fucking-ever and he desperately needs her help but this is somehow this is not a priority. She is more interested in this teenage boy's welfare because his parents are absent. AYFKM. On top of that there was a murder ON HER DOORSTEP and a subsequent attempted murder yet we are talking about she makes a morning smoothie every day and rises and sleeps with the sun.
The town of Portland reads like a flipping show from the 50's, it's so campy and ridiculous I cannot take it seriously. That's all I will say on that matter, in order to stop myself from getting too spoilery.
Now, to my biggest gripe of them all, THE FUCKING FOOD TALK. It was so obnoxiously heavy handed that this became unreadable. I am an extremely healthy eater, some might even call me militant about the quality of food I cook for my family. I was a long time vegetarian, flirted with being a vegan, and use holistic methods, vitamins and oils for nearly everything, and even I couldn't stand it. I did a quick word count and the "cook/ed/ing" was mentioned 79 times. SEVENTY-NINE-BRAIN-NUMBING-TIMES.
I am not exaggerating, the entire first 30% of this book is dedicated to talking about, the making of, discussing vegan food. Stop. This is absurd.
The prose itself is weak and awkward, there is little depth in the plot or characters, it reads very much like a first draft that needs heavy reworking. There was a murder on her doorstep, a following attempted murder, and there are pages and pages dedicated to Dorian turning into a house elf and cooking her vegan food while she takes nature walks, smells plants, and baby sits a 14 year old boy who broke into her house. The focus is so disproportionate to the severity of what is happening and the quality of the potential for awesome that it is rage inducing. I cannot recommend this to anyone, for any reason, unless you'd like to check the recipes in the back of the book, but that's why we have Pinterest. There are so many wonderful elements to this book but it misses the mark in epic proportions. Read at your own risk!
Edit 9/3: Upped a star… honestly the premise is flipping awesome, the execution just did not work for me. Perspective…time..yadda yadda. I'm not getting soft!