A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe
On the eve of the French Revolution, the most brilliant alchemist in France is on the verge of discovering the fabled Philospher’s Stone… when she descends suddenly into madness, leaving her teenage daughter Thea to somehow attempt to finish her work and use the Stone to cure her. Sent away to England by her mother’s well-meaning patron, Thea must negotiate an unfamiliar country, manage the father she never knew, and complete the work of making the Stone… even knowing that it drives anyone who attempts it mad.
Seeking a cure for her mother’s madness alone would be enough incentive for Thea, but the stakes keep getting higher, with her friend Will dying of consumption and Dominic, her father’s assistant, also taken by the Stone’s madness. And then there are the Prussians Will failed to deliver the Stone to… and Thea’s growing fears that her mind might not be quite her own any longer.
Thea and her mother are both remarkable women, determined to make their mark in a field utterly dominated by men. Marguerite is driven by ambition, though, and careless with the feelings of others; Thea has more empathy, which does make her vulnerable to manipulation, but in the end I think this is what causes her to win the day as she’s willing to sacrifice what the others weren’t.
As a lover of romance, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more of it in this book. There were two potential love interests for Thea; I won’t spoiler things but one of them betrays her and the other one meekly leaves at the end without a word. I suppose it’s possible this could become a series and the major players could potentially end up in the same place together again, but it ended fairly finally and Thea seemed happy with her final position, so maybe not.
The alchemical research is superb and felt so believable; the magic was interwoven seamlessly with the real science in the book such that it was occasionally hard to tell which was which, quite a trick to pull off, and I applaud the author for it. Thea is a sympathetic heroine it’s easy to root for, dismissed by her mother and viewed as lesser by almost all the men in the story. In the end, though, nobody else could have done what she did… but I couldn’t help but wonder how things would have turned out if she’d chosen differently.
Despite my hankering for a bit more romance, I’m still giving this five stars because it really is a superb read and didn’t need the romance to make it complete.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.