The Alchemy of Stone – Ekaterina Sedia

Author: | Posted in Books No comments

This book arrived in the post just as I was leaving for vacation so I was actually able to read it over a period of just 3 days – a rare thing for me!  Ms. Sedia draws a detailed picture of an ancient city ruled by a tripartite balance of power between the Mechanics, the Alchemists, and the Duke in concert with the ancient race of watcher Gargoyles.  Her style of prose is direct and sparse, yet she evokes sounds, smells and qualities of light that brought the city alive for me.

Mattie, the protagonist, is an Automaton, a clockwork artificial intelligence – for this is a world where mechanics and alchemy have advanced to the level of magic.  Mattie is recently emancipated from her Mechanic creator and is starting a new career as an Alchemist, a pursuit to which she is dedicated and at which she is very skilled. Yet she is not fully accepted even by her peers in the Alchemist’s Guild.

Throughout the book Mattie seemed very familiar to me and after some contemplation I think I understand why.  Mattie’s situation reminded me strongly of how women in engineering and IT were often treated at some of the more dysfunctional companies where I’ve worked. I suspect that many women pursuing careers in technology will feel an immediate kinship with Mattie!

But not all of the Mechanics are bad and not all of the Alchemists are wholly good.  This is neither a Utopian nor a Dystopian city, but it is a whopping good tale!