Book Review: The Alchemist’s Touch

This is the first book in the Academy Journals by Garrett Robinson. Get it here on Amazon. And the whole Academy Journals here.

The Alchemist's Touch: A Book of Underrealm (The Academy Journals 1) by [Robinson, Garrett]

Ebon is an (at times painfully) shy sixteen-year-old boy, who has lived a sheltered life under the thumb of his wealthy and cruel father. His family name carries a lot of baggage with it and seems to be universally feared, though we don’t quite find out why. Not yet, anyway.

Oh, and he’s an Alchemist. Errr, Transmuter, sorry. Except he never got to practice his magic, since that was just one of those things his father forbade him to do. Right along with growing a spine, apparently. Or speaking up. Or having an original thought. Really, his dad is a dick.

Poor Ebon. But hey! He gets his greatest wish, that one thing he’s dreamed of for so long and is allowed to attend the Academy, where he promptly tries to play catchup since he’s about six years late to the party. It’s okay though, ’cause for some reason the benches and stuff in the room made for ten year olds fit him, too. Or maybe he was just awkwardly squeezed into them and had to hunch the whole time. That’ll do a number on the posture.

Ebon is… a little inconsistent at times, though it sort of makes sense, considering how he’s so far behind on being allowed to be himself. Fortunately, he manages to make friends at the Academy relatively quickly. He also makes enemies though, naturally. In particular there’s one going by the name of Lillith, and I admit that their rivalry (if that is what we want to call it) is probably the only thing that I didn’t enjoy much. It came out of no-where and felt just a little too unreasonably cruel and “Ha ha, high school kids, amirght?

Are we really that horrible to each other? Wait. Don’t answer that.

His friendships, on the other hand, feel well deserved and organic, and I liked both Theren and Kalem reasonably well. Ebon, of course, needs them both, and it isn’t until long that he’s swept into a conspiracy hatched by his father. Or so we are led to believe, because there are still questions unanswered by the end. Even for Ebon, who decided to try and unravel the mystery, his two friends by his side.

It goes reasonably well. Sort of. Kind of.

Overall, I liked this book, though I am finding it a little hard to place? It’s not a story about a magical academy, for one. Even though it takes place in one. It’s also not really a coming of age sort of story since Ebon has still so much room to grow. It’s also not one entirely about personal growth in his craft, considering he barely manages two proper spells throughout the entire thing. Adventure? Kind of? Maybe? Mystery? Hmmm, getting there. A bit of political intrigue?

Alright, it’s probably all of the above. Plus, it’s just generally a really nice read. I’m glad I picked it up.

… and, just for the record, my favourite character in the whole thing is Mako and I want to know more about him. Which one of the reasons why I will keep reading through the series, hoping to uncover more.

Book Review: The Botanist’s Castle

Goblins, ghosts and giant beanstalks! One small boy. Not enough chamomile tea…

The Botanist's Castle

Life for William Meriweather is pleasant but rather dull, until his father takes a job at the Botanist’s Castle.

Before long William is thrown headlong into adventure as the Venus man-traps develop a taste for kitchen-boys, the dryads take over the library and the breakfast toast is burnt to a crisp.

A magical children’s book in 102 pages. Available on Amazon. It’s imaginative. Uplifting. And makes you smile.

The Botanist’sCastle by Hesketh Tolson is both charming and sweet, and reminded me of the books I probably should have read as a child.  And it leaves me wondering: Just how much does the author love plants? 

William, the books protagonist, allows us to come along with him and his father, as they set out on a fantastic journey into a world of intricate magic and fascinating flora (and fauna), which ranges from beautiful, delicate, to down-right terrifying.

What stood out most to me was the effortless world building, and how I was given the opportunity to see William’s world through his young, unbiased eyes.  Right from the first page on, I was left wondering:  Is William’s father just pulling the boy’s leg?  Or is magic real?  And with undeniably fantastic style, I was let in on the world’s secrets, bit by bit.

Are there some editing errors?  Yeah, there are, but they are rare, and greatly outmatched by the otherwise evocative and easy to read style.

So, have a read.  I would definitely recommend this for anyone who wants to dive into something innocent, delightful, short, and smoothly paced. There’s little in there that didn’t make me smile, from the side characters we get to tour a certain castle with, to the resolution to problems William faces.