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May 23, 2013 / minusbar

Book Review: Quintessence, by David Walton

Book Review: “Quintessence” by David Walton

Imagine an Age of Exploration full of alchemy, human dissection, sea monsters, betrayal, torture, religious controversy, and magic. In Europe, the magic is thin, but at the edge of the world, where the stars reach down close to the Earth, wonders abound. This drives the bravest explorers to the alluring Western Ocean. Christopher Sinclair is an alchemist who cares only about one thing: quintessence, a substance he believes will grant magical powers and immortality. And he has a ship.

The “what if” statement that is the foundation of this book is captivating. What if the world was actually flat, alchemy was a real science, and it was possible to live forever? Then you would have Quintessence by David Walton.

What do they always tell you? Don’t judge a book by its cover. Yet the cover art for Quintessence, done by Kekai Kotaki, is absolutely stunning. It’s one of the reasons I picked the book in the first place (I’m guilty, I judged).

The inside is even better, though. The setting, around the 16th century, is historical, but not overwhelmingly so. Walton gives enough detail to make it realistic without boring readers to death. I appreciated this, since I was there for the fantasy. Still, it makes for a rich backdrop; you can easily imagine the bustling streets of London and the sailors furling the sails.

What impressed me the most about this book was the character development. There was just so much of it! It wasn’t blatantly obvious though, or “oh I just converted from evil to good”. Walton’s characters changed in human ways, some realizations creeping up on them and some hitting them like a cup of cold water in the face. Almost every single character grew at least a little bit.

All in all, I enjoyed Quintessence quite thoroughly. It was a change of pace from what I normally read, and it was well written and developed. I would (and already have, actually) recommend it to my friends.

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