Synopsis: In 14th century England, Cyrus Shaw and his father find a way to use alchemy to make people immortal. They do this by turning them into “incarnates”—souls detached from their original bodies who can take over others’ bodies. The problem? Once an incarnate transfers his or her soul, the host’s original soul departs to the Great Beyond. After 600 years of serial killing, Cyrus’s lover Seraphina decides she’s ready to die for real, but her plan goes awry when a teenage girl gets into a car accident in front of her. In attempting to save Kailey, Sera accidentally takes over her body. She wakes up in the hospital in the life of a sixteen-year-old girl and soon finds it hard to leave Kailey’s family and friends behind…
Is this a “must-read”?: Technically no, but it’s not a disaster either.
Why?: I will admit that The Alchemy of Forever wasn’t the Twilight-esque monstrosity I was expecting, but it’s not all that and a bag of Ferrero Rochet either. It was mostly Seraphina’s maturity level(s) that bugged me. At times she comes across as wise but world-weary, at other times she’s, well, a teenager. And the adolescent behavior isn’t always her way of fitting into Kailey’s life, either. I get that her controlling relationship with Cyrus might have stunted her mental/emotional growth a bit, but not that much (especially when you consider how long she’s been around).
There are quite a few other gaping plot holes as well, such as the fact that it took Sera 600 years and dozens of murders to decide she’d had enough and make an escape plan. She comes across as kind of a Mary Sue, but we’ll see how she’s characterized in the rest of the series. Alchemy of Forever also features the YA fantasy cliché that’s, unfortunately, becoming more and more common: a character who’s technically been alive for hundreds of years but who looks like a teenager falls for an actual teenager, and neither party questions it. I mean really? What the heck can they even talk about?
On the bright side, Alchemy of Forever also features a healthy blend of logical actions along with the plot holes, though things go a little too conveniently for Sera on multiple occasions. Williams addressed the obvious moral issue fairly well, and, since it’s a series, she can get more into that as well as the “Does the love interest really love Sera or is it her imitation of Kailey that he likes?” question. It’s a fairly enjoyable read, and it very honestly creeped me out for a while (which, by YA paranormal romance standards, is quite an achievement in itself). If I was going to somehow quantify Alchemy of Forever’s relative goodness, I’d have to say that the plot holes, the 600-year-old/17-year-old romance, and Sera’s maturity fluctuations kind of outweigh her logical actions and the serious philosophic questions the novel asks. I’d recommend it if you want a darker summer read, but it’s definitely no TFIOS, and if you’re a more nitpicky reader it will probably drive you insane.
Next time: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Will you be reading The Alchemy of Forever?
Post by dac213! Catch up on the rest of her series here!