Title: Alchemy

Author: Margaret Mahy

Roland is a prefect, a popular guy, and a responsible son. Even he isn’t sure why he decided to shoplift a few minor items, but the deed allows one of his teachers, Mr. Hudson, to blackmail him into getting close to Jess, one of his classmates. Jess is a quiet kid, overlooked by everyone. Roland has no idea why Mr. Hudson cares so much. But as he gets drawn deeper into the mystery, he realizes there’s more to Jess than meets the eye—and more to himself than he ever thought.

This is mostly a literary story, with some trappings of fantasy. Roland is the cool kid who has it all together: looks, girlfriend, grades, and the respect of his mom (but not his little brothers). But he’s troubled by a reoccurring dream, a sense sometimes that the world is singing to him, and the notion sometimes that he might be falling apart.

I did like the descriptions of the singing world, but as a magic system it just sucks. There’s no rhyme or reason to what can be done with it, other than “whatever the plot needs to happen.” There’s no boundaries or restrictions on the power. Most of the book I thought it was just going to be a listening/seeing kind of thing, except then some characters actually do use it: one of them basically a vampire, one casting spells that distort time and space, one using telepathy, one manipulating physical objects. And so on. And nothing gets explained because it’s all just mysteries of the universe stuff. I don’t need the laws and rules spelled out, but it would be nice to get a better handle on what the limits of this is supposed to be.

I also wasn’t fond of the make-out sessions. It really didn’t add anything to the story and just put a bit to skim past.

Overall this isn’t all that great as a fantasy, but it might not be too bad as more of a lit novel about family and relationships. I rate this book Neutral.


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