Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

Mattie is a clockwork woman with a windup heart. She is like a porcelain doll made of whalebone, copper gears, and steel. In the center of her chest is a clear box with a hole in it. It is there that her creator, Loharri puts the key in to wind up her heart.

They exist in a city at the edge of an industrial age not our own. The novel is a kind of steampunk, but not in any Victorian style. There is a mix of the magic of alchemy and clockwork machines. Mattie is the bridge between two factions in the city, the mechanics and the alchemists. She is an intelligent automaton trained as an alchemist.

Unlike either faction, she can see the suffering of the common people, the poisoned air and water, the deformed children bred to work in the mines and the peasants forced off their land by automata. She also is in touch with the gargoyles, the fleeting creatures who represent the nobility who are quickly becoming irrelevant in the larger scheme of things.

The city itself is fascinating; there is the foreign quarter with its dark skinned inhabitants, the constant flow of centipede like carriages, the paper factories, the parliament, the palace toppoed with gargoyles, and the automatons doing menial labor. It is a city falling apart at the seems moving into civil war and destruction.

This story is a tragedy and it does not come to a happy ending. There is even an element of a love story between Sebastian, a rogue mechanic, and Mattie. This goes against the wishes of her creator, Loharri. The sense of tragedy and forbidden love is what makes the book so wonderful and lyrical. The story pits the ideas of tradition versus progress against each other leaving ruin in the end. The story is full of unique images and has a poetic quality to it that touches your sense of wonder and imagination.

Ekaterian Sedia also wrote The Secret History of Moscow. This is a story of weird fiction. I could compare it to Jeff Vandermeer's Ambergris novels, or possibly China Mieville. She has a website, .


LisaMay said...

Sounds really interesting!

Carlos said...

Hi! Care to x-link? I have added you already in my list. Have a nice day!