Published by InterMix on November 18, 2014
Genres: Historical, Romantic, Science Fiction, Steampunk
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
Sexual Content: Kissing
Reviewed by: Kristina
In 1842, the gunpowder might of China’s Qing Dynasty fell to Britain’s steam engines. Furious, the Emperor ordered the death of his engineers—and killed China’s best chance of fighting back…
Since her father’s execution eight years ago, Jin Soling kept her family from falling into poverty. But her meager savings are running out, leaving her with no choice but to sell the last of her father’s possessions—her last memento of him.
Only, while attempting to find a buyer, Soling is caught and brought before the Crown Prince. Unlike his father, the Emperor, the Prince knows that the only chance of expelling the English invaders is to once again unite China’s cleverest minds to create fantastic weapons. He also realizes that Soling is the one person who could convince her father’s former allies—many who have turned rebel—to once again work for the Empire. He promises to restore her family name if she’ll help him in his cause.
But after the betrayal of her family all those years ago, Soling is unsure if she can trust anyone in the Forbidden City—even if her heart is longing to believe in the engineer with a hidden past who was once meant to be her husband…
One of the best things about GUNPOWDER ALCHEMY is the fact that the worldbuilding takes place in China during the Qing Dinasty. I so rarely read books predominately set in Asia so it was refreshing to see steampunk mixed in with Chinese customs and history. I enjoyed seeing some of that culture play a role in the fast paced plot such as the Opium Wars, arranged marriages, and mentions of foot-binding. Along with this being a historical fiction filled with some steampunky goodness this is a wonderful action adventure. There actually was a good balance of steampunk technology in that the story wasn't to bogged down in technical descriptions of fantastical contraptions.
Jin is a strong, smart, heroine who I really felt for right from the start considering her family situation. Her determination to support her family brings her full throttle into the circle of war, politics, and some pretty cool ship battles. The romance is definitely a slow burn to the point that it didn't really feel like there was even a romance there. I see how Jin's relationship with Chang-wei is developing into something more than simple friendship but it barely exists in GUNPOWDER ALCHEMY. Perhaps there will be more romance in the next book between these two? All of the characters have wonderful back stories and are fully realized. I just hope there is more to the romance in later books.
GUNPOWDER ALCHEMY created a wonderful tapestry of epic battles, political intrigue, and a rich setting which made for a great story. I loved seeing Chinese culture and history with a steampunk bent and am looking forward to seeing what the next book brings in the Gunpowder Chronicles.
- For more steampunk boat travel try The Iron Duke by Meljean Brooks