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Friday, February 26, 2016

Alchemy of Chaos By Marshall Ryan Maresca

by Terrance McArthur

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

Last year, I reviewed The Thorn of Dentonhill and read A Murder of Mages, both by Marshall Ryan Maresca, both set under the two moons of the port city of Maradaine, but from two different series, and I was twice captivated. This year, Maresca kicks off things with a sequel to Thorn. It’s The Alchemy of Chaos: a novel of Maradaine.

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Veranix Calbert is a student of magic, trained acrobat, and popular vigilante, possessed of a magical cape and rope and a hatred of Willem Fenmere, the drug lord responsible for his mother’s wasting away. As the Thorn, Veranix has incensed Fenmere, who hires a group of shapely assassins to kill him or turn the townsfolk against him. Meanwhile, the college is beset by wizardly pranks that get less funny and more deadly. On top of that, a new drug is showing up in the neighborhood. This all takes place in a world that combines the Middle and Victorian Ages, semi-industrial and quasi-feudal.

The Thorn is suffering from Superhero Sidekick Syndrome. More and more people know his secret identity, which means more people are at risk, and there are more people who could make a mistake and reveal his secrets. At first, there was a girl who worked on campus and let people think they were having sex to cover up why he was sneaking out of his dormitory at night. Then there was his cousin (a member of one of the street gangs of the city) and his university roommate. More people now know who the Thorn is, including some of the bad guys.

Image source: DAW

The book is part Caped Crusader crime-fighting adventure (Batman is a frequent comparison in reviews), part urban warfare gang saga (with elements of The Cross and the Switchblade), part wizard-in-training fantasy (Harry Potter, anyone?), part steam-punk science fiction, a shaken‒not‒stirred part James Bond and the Bond Girls,and a very-chaste part romance. Just as Veranix, from a family of entertainers, balances on the rooftops and somersaults through the air, so Maresca juggles all these styles, creating a rollicking, engrossing, thought-provoking experience. You don’t often find magical adventure yarns tackling ethical questions of responsibility.

Maresca is working on a third Maradaine series and I can hardly wait!

To enter to win a copy of Alchemy of Chaos, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “alchemy,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 5, 2016. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public's information needs.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sounds like an interesting read. Great review. Thanks for the chance to win. doward1952@yahoo.com

  3. Cheers to Kings River Lite! I have been exploring other genres to expand my reading adventures. This book seems like a great one to send me on a sci-fi adventure.