Review: The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova

 

The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova (Loom Saga #1)

Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk, YA

Publisher: Keymaster Press on January 10, 2017

Source: Publisher

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

Her vengeance. His vision.

Ari lost everything she once loved when the Five Guilds’ resistance fell to the Dragon King.

  

With a wholly original take on dragons, compelling characters, and a plot that moves at a breakneck pace, THE ALCHEMISTS OF LOOM is sure to be a big hit this year. I finally understand where all the Elise Kova love stems from!

The Fenthri, a trades-minded people who toil to create new inventions, are trapped by their lack of magic on the world of Loom and unable to reach the upper realm of Nova. For above the deadly God’s Line the dragons rule from Nova, keeping the Fenthri under their talons and quelling all attempts at rebellion. But with unrest building among the lower echelons of Nova, will the tyrannical Dragon King be caught unawares by the growing Fenthri resistance on Loom?

Cultures collide when Cvareh, an overlooked and low-ranked dragon crashes through the God’s Line and straight into the White Wraith, Loom’s most notorious criminal. Arianna, known as Ari to her student (and only friend) Florence, has dedicated her life to acting as the White Wraith and bringing down the dragons. But Ari’s motives are her own, and for reasons only she knows, she accepts Cvareh’s offer of a magical boon in exchange for ferrying him to the Alchemist’s Guild in the most remote part of Loom. Cvareh has his own secrets though, and as the trio is pursued across Loom by the ruthless King’s Riders it becomes clear that his trip to Loom is anything but an accident.

Elise Kova’s has a unique take on dragons, depicting them as semi-humanoid creatures with rainbow colouring, slitted eyes, and talons. She packs a ton of detail about the social structure of both Loom and Nova into the story, which was one of my favourite aspects of THE ALCHEMISTS OF LOOM. I was particularly struck by the guild structure of Loom: mandated by the Dragon King, Fenthri are assigned to guilds based on birth rather than ability…and those who lack skill in their assigned guild’s pursuits are executed as a method of population control. Ari remembers a time when the Fenthri studied all the guild’s arts and became Masters based on their inclination rather then the decree of a foreign despot. She will do anything to bring back those days, including compromising all her ideals by helping – and maybe even befriending – a dragon.

The characters in THE ALCHEMISTS OF LOOM are flawed yet lovable, particularly Ari. This is a woman who’s seen horrible war and suffering at the hands of the dragons, but her blind hatred and bigotry of their own species often gets in her way. While this is hardly a flattering quality, it made perfect sense given her own shadowy past and I appreciated the realism even when it made her behave like an ass. Plus homegirl is canonically queer (most likely bi, holla!) and none of the Fenthri have a problem with it, which made my heart happy. Florence was another personal favourite, as her goodness and willingness to trust made her a precious example of good people in a story about secrets, violence, and betrayal. She’s too pure for the Loom/Nova universe, y’all!

Given the intensity of the initial world building, I wouldn’t recommend this to newcomers to fantasy. But overall, THE ALCHEMISTS OF LOOM is an impressive fantasy opener that’s sure to please YA fantasy fans.

What’s your favourite story with dragons? Have you read anything by Elise Kova? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Cover is kind of different; looks pretty but also kind of video gamey. I am old school, my favorite dragon books are still the first I read; the Pern series.

    • This book would make an excellent video game, especially with all the cool steampunk tech. HA! Oh Pern…I tried to read those books but they started to go to a really weird place.

  • MaddalenaSpaceandSorcery

    Novels that focus on carefully crafted societies exert a special fascination of me and that would have been enough to make me add this book to my list – but the real bonus came with the first words you wrote “her vengeance”, because I enjoy vengeance stories so much… 🙂

    • Aren’t vengeance stories the best??? Something about making people pay for their misdeeds just speaks to the bloodthirsty reader in me, haha.

      There’s a lot to like about this one but Kova’s construction of Loom and Nova’s societies is the clear winner! I’m interested to hear your take on them if you end up reading this one, Maddalena.

  • I’ll have to give this a shot — I’m a total sucker for anything involving dragons! Guilds are just icing on the cake too.

    • Dragons are definitely up there with my favourite magical creatures…although I confess that unicorns still have a special place in my heart, haha. The guilds in this one were really interesting and I especially liked the various symbols associated with them!

  • Wow perfect timing! I was just offered this on audio and I have heard good things on this author but not this book (yet). So happy to see you liked it, I think I’ll get the audio!

    Nereyda│ Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist

    • Eeeeeee, I hope the audiobook is well done! I’ve been hearing good things about Kova for ages and I quite liked this one, so I’m definitely going to read her other series too.

  • Christy Luis

    I’ve been curious about this one and your review is the most helpful I’ve read by far. Thanks for all the worldbuilding info 🙂

    • Wow, thanks Christy! Happy to be of help…the world building is on point in this one. 🙂

  • Gah, this sounds like a story with a lot of things I love! The characters sound great and I love that there’s queer characters and it’s not a big deal in the book. Glad you enjoyed this! Great review, Danya!

    • Right?! I was so freaking pleased when Kova confirmed that Ari’s queer (in the book) and no one – at least no one on Loom – cares. The characters were great and I’m hopeful that we’ll be introduced to more dragon POVs in the sequel. Thanks, Cyn! 🙂

  • I’ve read one book by her that I thoroughly enjoyed so this one is high up my TBR. I think I have a copy from NG so I will be reading it. I’m thrilled that so many of you are loving it though. It definitely sounds complex, but everything about it also sounds really entertaining. I’m especially curious about Kova’s take on dragons – it sounds very unique from your description! I hope I’ll enjoy it just as much! 🙂

    • Oooh, was that Air Awakens??? I’ve had a digital copy for ages but I have yet to read it. I know you’re not a huge fan of the multi-POVs that abound in fantasy, but it was really well done here. The initial chapters are pretty intense – the world building comes fast and furious without much explanation – but it’s definitely worth it in my opinion!

      Kova’s take on dragons is definitely unique! 🙂

  • I like her last name, it means tough 😉
    Yay dragons, fav, hmmm, dunno

    • Does it really? That’s so cool! Dragons are really cool, probably one of my favourite magical creatures!

  • Actually I’d argue that this series is already a hit! I’ve seen this book everywhere! And the author’s previous books too. (Air Awakens? Something like that?) I’ve not read any of her books but I’ve seen them everywhere. Anything with dragons suits my fancy! That’s awesome that there is good rep in the book.

    Great review, Danya! =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • Oh it’s definitely a hit in the blogging community, I meant a hit commercially! A couple library patrons came in recently to request copies, which is always the sign that something’s become mainstream in my experience. 😉

      I’ve heard a ton of good stuff about Air Awakens but I have yet to read it. I don’t think that one features dragons like this does, buuuuut it has a librarian MC so I’m still sold. Thank the publishing gods for good rep in books! 🙏

  • Having just recently finished a dragon story, I am eager to read more. Maybe this might fit the bill!

    • Dragon stories are so much fun! I’m hoping that I’ll read Heartstone soon too (that’s the one you’re talking about, right?), although it sounds like it has a really different tone from this one.

  • Lynn Williams

    I haven’t read this author although I’ve always liked the look of Air Awakens. Perhaps I’ll check this one out instead – because, dragons!
    Lynn 😀

    • Elise Kova has been blessed with gorgeous cover art, and the pretty pink cover for Air Awakens always draws my eye whenever I see it! Who doesn’t love dragons, right?? 😄

  • Yay, great review. Great to see you enjoyed it, I know you said you did but I hadn’t seen your review then. I have to say I did really love the different societies or Loom and Nova. I found it really interesting the stereotypical family structure was forced upon Nova by the dragon’s and it wasn’t something they’d initially had. And that same sex relationships had previously been a really common thing within their society. I hope we get to learn more about what Nova’s society was like before in the next book because I think it will be really interesting to see how much it differs from how it is with the dragon’s.

    Basically, I’m really excited to see what happens in the next book, especially if it’s as good as this one was. I seriously need to get around to reading Kova’s other series as well.

    • Thanks Becky! I was actually surprised by how much I liked this one, but I guess I shouldn’t have been based on all the love that Elise Kova’s books have been getting. Loom and Nova’s societies were totally fascinating, and I’m definitely interested to learn more about how the dragons imposed the strict hierarchical structure on Loom. Cvareh’s surprise at same-sex relationships was definitely interesting, and it hinted at some more world building surrounding sexuality and sexual politics on the two worlds in the sequel, which I am obviously 100% here for.

      I think I’m going to read Air Awakens fairly soon, so I’ll let you know what I think of it if I do stick to that plan…although I’ve always been horrible at sticking to my TBR.

  • Greg Hill

    An original take on dragons- and the whole guild thing too. This definitely sounds good. I feel like even though I love dragons I don’t read a lot of books about them? I don’t know, you’d think there’d be more, or maybe I’m just not finding them. But I love the sound of this one, and I’ve seen a few good reviews already, so yeah- think I’m adding this one. 🙂

    Nice review Danya!!

    • You know, I feel the same way! It’s actually been ages since I’ve read a book about dragons…for some reason the only ones that I can remember are His Majesty’s Dragon and Seraphina even though I’m pretty sure there’ve been others more recently. If you like books about dragons (and guilds…hahaha) then I definitely recommend picking this one up!

      Thanks, Greg. 😊

  • The Alchemists of Loom is my first read with Kova and I’m excited for more! The world building was impressive for sure and I’m curious to see much more of Loom 🙂

    • Same! I’m really curious to see how things shake up in book two, since it looks like the gang’s going to be on Nova for a while. I definitely want to read Air Awakens now!

  • Hmm, I like well thought out world building it makes me buy into the fantasy more, awesome review!!

    • A well-developed world is definitely a must have for a fantasy novel! The whole thing feels kind of “copy paste” and random if the world building isn’t good, in my opinion. But Kova did it very well here!

  • Lauren

    Great review! I absolutely loved this one – can’t wait to read more of her work. 🙂

  • Ooooh, interesting take on dragons! + Diverse characters = WIN. It sounds like a wonderful new fantasy series. That cover though — I am torn between loving it and not loving it, and I can’t place why.

  • You pretty much listed everything I love in a book – YA Fantasy, DRAGONS, fast paced plotting and great characters!

    Other than the strange and difficult looking names, this looks like my sort of book from start to finish. When you mentioned ‘the intensity of the initial world building’ is it done well? Or info dumped? Just curious.

    I haven’t picked up an Elise Kova yet but her Air Awakens is on my TBR.

    Dragons are definitely something I love reading about and this sounds very unique. I have read a couple of Novik’s Temeraire series (which I need to get back to!) and loved that. I also enjoyed a lesser known series called The Dragonian which I thought had so much potential and I really enjoyed the books. I liked (but far from loved) Talon but want to continue with that series by Kagawa. Any other dragon series I should be reading IMMEDIATELY?

    Thanks for the great review!