Title: A GOLDEN FURY
Author: SAMANTHA COHOE
Publisher: WEDNESDAY BOOKS
Publication Date: OCTOBER 13, 2020
ABOUT THE BOOK
Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.
While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.
But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing the steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.
My mother was screaming at the Comte. Again.
I slammed the front doors behind me and walked down the carriageway, under the dappled shade of the poplars that lined it. A hundred paces away, I still heard her, though at least I could no longer hear the Comte’s frantic endearments and low, rapid pleading. He should know by now that wasn’t the way. Perhaps I should tell him. Adrien was the first of my mother’s patrons I had ever liked, and I did not want to leave Normandy just as spring was breaking. Just as we were beginning to make progress.
Though perhaps we were not. Mother would not be screaming at the Comte if the work were going well. She would not take the time. Alchemy was a demanding science, even if some scoffed and called it charlatanry or magic. It required total concentration. If the work were
going well, the Comte would scarcely exist to her, nor would I, now that she would not let me be of use. The composition must have broken again. This was about when it had, last round. I could not be certain, since she had taken away my key to the laboratory. She could hardly have devised a worse insult than that if she had tried, and lately she did seem to be trying. The laboratory was mine as much as it was hers. If she did succeed in producing the White Elixir—which turned all metals into silver—then it was only because of my help. She had found Jābir’s text languishing in a Spanish monastery, but it had been I who translated it when her Arabic wasn’t nearly up to the job. I had labored for months over the calcinary furnace to make the philosophic mercury the text took as its starting point. I had the scars on my hands and arms to prove it. And now that success might be close, she wished to shut me out and deny my part, and claim it for herself alone.
But if she was acting ill and cross, it meant she had failed. A low, smug hum of satisfaction warmed me. I didn’t want the work to fail, but I didn’t want her to succeed without me, either.
A distant smashing sound rang out from the chateau. My mother shattering something against the wall, no doubt.
I sighed and shifted my letter box to the crook of my other arm.
I knew what this meant. Another move. Another man. The Comte had lasted longer than the rest. Over two years, long enough that I had begun to hope I would not have to do it all again. I hated the uncertainty of those first weeks, before I knew what was expected of me, whether Mother’s new patron had a temper and what might set it off, whether he liked children to speak or be silent. Though I was no longer a child, and that might bring its own problems. A chill passed over me, despite the warm afternoon sunshine. God only knew what the next one would be like. My mother had already run through so many of them. And with the recent changes in France, there were fewer rich men than ever looking to give patronage to an expensive alchemist, even one as beautiful and famous as Marguerite Hope.
I veered off the carriageway, into the soft spring grass, dotted here and there with the first of the lavender anemones. I sat by the stream, under the plum tree.
There was no screaming here, no pleading, no signs that my life was about to change for the worse. I inhaled the soft, sweet scent of plum blossoms and opened my letter box. If this was to be my last spring in Normandy, I wanted to remember it like this. Springtime in Normandy was soft and sweet, sun shining brightly and so many things blossoming that the very air was perfumed with promise. Everything was coming extravagantly to life, bursting out of the dead ground and bare trees with so much energy other impossible things seemed likely, too. I had always been hopeful in Normandy when it was spring. Especially last spring, when Will was still here. When we sat under this very tree, drank both bottles of champagne he had stolen from the cellars, and spun tales of everything we could achieve.
I took out his last letter, dated two months ago.
This is my address now—as you see I’ve left Prussia. It turns out that everything they say about the Prussians is quite true. I’ve never met a more unbending man than my patron there. One day past the appointed date and he tried to throw me in prison for breach of contract! He thinks alchemy can be held to the same strict schedule as his serfs.
Laws against false alchemists were very harsh in Germany, as Will knew full well when he sought patronage there. I had begged him to go somewhere else, though he had few enough choices. He was my mother’s apprentice, with no achievements of his own to make his reputation. His training had been cut abruptly short when Mother found us together under this plum tree, watching the sunrise with clasped hands and two empty bottles of champagne. She’d seen to it that Will was gone by noon. It was no use telling her that all we’d done was talk through the night, or that the one kiss we’d shared had been our first, and had gone no further. He had behaved with perfect respect for me, but she wouldn’t believe it. My mother had imagined a whole path laid before my feet in that moment, and scorched it from the earth with Greek fire.
I turned to the next page.
I blame myself, of course, Bee, for not heeding your advice. I can picture your face now, wondering what I expected. It would almost be worth all the trouble I’ve caused myself if I could come to you and see your expression. You must be the only woman in the world who is never lovelier than when you’ve been proven right.
The keen thrill of pleasure those words had brought me when I first read them had faded now, and left me feeling uncertain. Should I write back knowingly, teasing him for his recklessness? I had tried this, and was sure I sounded like a scold no matter what he said about my loveliness when proven right. I took out my latest draft, which struck a more sincere tone. I read the lines over, saying how I worried for him, how I missed him. I crumpled it in my hand halfway through. Too much emotion. It didn’t do to show such dependence on a man. My mother had shown me that. I didn’t wish to emulate her in everything, but I would be a fool to deny her skill at winning masculine devotion. I tried again.
I am sitting under the plum tree where we had our last picnic. I know how you feel about nostalgia, but I hope you will forgive me this one instance. I fear this will be our last spring in Normandy—perhaps even in France. Many of my mother’s friends have left already, and though you may well condemn them as reactionaries, the fact remains that there are very few good Republicans with the ready cash to pay for our pursuits.
I sighed again and crumpled the page. Somehow I could never seem to write to him about the Revolution without a touch of irony creeping in. I didn’t want that. Will had put his hopes for a better world in the new order, and even though I was less hopeful than he, I loved him for it. At least he wanted a better world. Most alchemists simply wanted better metals.
I tried to imagine he was here. It wouldn’t be difficult then. He was so good at setting me at ease. His admiration was as intoxicating as wine, but unlike wine it sharpened my wits instead of dulling them. I was never cleverer than when Will was there to laugh with me.
My chest constricted at the memory of Will’s laugh. I didn’t know anyone who laughed like him. The Parisian aristocrats I had known all had so much consciousness of the sound they made when they did it. The Comte wasn’t like them, but he was a serious man and laughed rarely. My mother didn’t laugh at all.
But Will. He laughed like it came from the loud, bursting core of him. Like he couldn’t have kept it in if he wanted to, and why would he want to? And when he was done laughing, he would look at me like no one else ever had. Like he saw only me, not as an accessory to my mother, but as myself. And not as an odd girl whose sharp edges would need to be softened. Will liked the edges. The sharper they cut, the more they delighted him.
I threw my letters into the letter box and snapped it shut. I looked around for somewhere to hide the box, and noticed too late that one of my crumpled drafts had blown toward the stream. My mother appeared on the hill above me, the late afternoon sun lighting up her golden hair like an unearned halo. She walked down the hill with measured steps and stopped a few yards above me, I assumed because she wished to enjoy the experience of being taller than me again for a few moments. Her eye moved to the crumpled paper. I ran to it and stuffed it into my pocket before she could take it, though my haste in hiding the failed letter told her all I didn’t
wish her to know.
“Oh dear,” said my mother. “I do hope you haven’t been wasting your afternoon trying to find the right words to say to that boy.”
My mother was tolerant of my letter writing these days, perhaps because she was confident I would never see Will again. She had smiled when she heard of Will’s contract in Prussia. He won’t find it so easy to charm his way past the Prussian alchemy laws. In Germany, one must deliver results, not pretty smiles, or end in prison.
“I wouldn’t have an afternoon to waste if you would let me into the laboratory,” I said.
“Don’t be pitiful, Thea,” said my mother. “Surely you can think of something worthwhile to do when I don’t happen to need your assistance.”
I clenched my teeth so tight that my jaw ached. Shutting me out of the laboratory, our laboratory, was the greatest injustice she had ever committed against me. Worse than all the moving about, worse than sending Will away, worse than any insult she could think to level at me. Before she had done that, I believed we were together in alchemy at least, even if nothing else. That she had raised and trained me not simply to be of use to her, but to be her partner. Her equal, one day. Throwing me out of the laboratory just when we might achieve what we had worked for told me that Will was right. She would never let me claim credit for my part of the work. She would never accept me as an alchemist in my own right.
And yet she described it as though she had simply let me off my chores. As if I were no more necessary than a servant. There was no point in arguing with her, but even
so I could not let it stand.
“I am not your assistant,” I said.
“Oh?” she asked. “Do you have news, then? Have you found a patron on your own merits? Do you intend to strike out on your own?”
“Perhaps I will,” I said, my face growing hot. “Perhaps I will stay here when you are finally finished tormenting the poor Comte.”
My mother had a perfect, deceptively sweet beauty: golden blond and blue-eyed with a round, doll-like face. It made the venom that sometimes twisted her expression hard to quite believe in. Many men simply didn’t. They preferred to ignore the evidence of their minds for the evidence of their senses. I, of course, knew her better than they did. I tensed, preparing.
But instead of lashing out, my mother turned aside, a hand to her chest. A tremor passed over her; she bowed her head against it.
Mother had been strangely unwell for weeks. At first I responded to her illness as she had taught me to, with distaste and disapproval, as though falling sick were an ill-considered pastime of those with insufficient moral fortitude. But if she noticed how unpleasant it was to receive so little sympathy when unwell, she did not show it. She had locked herself away in the laboratory every day until late at night, ignoring my silence as much as she ignored the Comte’s pleas that she rest. I had not thought much of it until this moment. Any pain great enough to turn her from chastising me for thinking I could do alchemy without her must be serious indeed.
“Mother?” I asked.
“You will go where I tell you.” Her voice was low and breathless, almost a gasp. “For now, that is to dinner. Wear the green taffeta.”
“The robe à la française?” I asked, perplexed. I hadn’t worn that dress since before the Estates General met. Its style was the hallmark of the ancient régime: wide panniered hips, structured bodice, and elaborate flounces. “But it’s out of fashion.”
“So is our guest,” said my mother.
She went up the hill again, then turned back to me at the top.
“Thea,” she said, all the sharpness gone from her voice.
“I know you do not believe it any longer, but everything I do is for you.”
It was the sort of thing she always said. Before this year, I had always believed it, more or less. At least, everything she did was for the both of us. She had considered me an extension of herself, so that doing things for me was no different than doing them for herself. Why else take so much care to train me, to see to it that I had the tutors I needed to learn every language necessary—more even than she knew? To take me with her in all her travels to seek out manuscripts? She was an impatient teacher at times, but a good one. A thorough one. And in turn I was a good student. The best.
Until we were close to our goal. Then, suddenly, I was a rival. And my mother did not tolerate rivals.
“You are right, Mother,” I said. “I don’t believe that any longer.”
Science and magic collide in this stunning debut novel about the study of Alchemy and the power of the Philosopher’s Stone. This was a very unique story with a very intriguing plot and a bunch of interesting characters. If you’re into dark academia like I am, then you might want to read this book.
The concept of Alchemy is very rare to find in many books. I liked that the author of this book is using this concept and managed to write a very unique storyline that got me hooked from the very first page. Let’s be honest, the study of Alchemy is also very rare in today’s world unless you count the study of Chemistry which is part of modern science that is a bit similar to the study of Alchemy but isn’t exactly the same.
Understanding Alchemy might be hard and complicated to some people. Back in the days, Alchemy was a very controversial topic mainly because people always associated it with magic due to the myth of the Philosopher’s Stone which can be made using the study of Alchemy, but of course no one ever made the Stone.
I’ve been fascinated with Alchemy since high school and even did my research on it after my science teacher taught my class a little bit about Alchemy. I wish Alchemy would make a comeback, I’ve seen a few articles that said it is coming back but I wasn’t really too sure whether it was true or not. It would be cool if it actually making a comeback, I would love to study Alchemy as a whole instead of just a small piece of it.
Seeing the Alchemy concept in this book was really amazing, and especially when the characters in this book are studying Alchemy just to make the Philosopher’s Stone. It wasn’t really hard to find out why many seeks the Stone and why it was so important. Many people wanted it for the same reason; they wanted to cure illnesses and diseases, they wanted to become rich, they wanted to become immortal etc.
I also understand why Alchemy can be dangerous if it were use to make the Philosopher’s Stone. People can use the Stone for the wrong reasons and if you really think about what would happen if people with too much power have the Stone, they would do so many bad things with it than good, and just thinking about it terrifies me. This is also the reason why Alchemy was banned a long time ago.
This book has shown what can happen if someone with evil intention wanted to do to others by using the Stone, and well…the Stone itself has a mind of its own and it wasn’t good either. I really liked how in-depth the author explored Alchemy and the process of making the Philosopher’s Stone, and how the Stone can affect a person’s mind and their way of thinking. Trust me, you would want to destroy the Stone too if you know what it can do to you just like what was shown here in this book.
I was shocked to find out the twist about the Stone. It really made a huge madness in this book, there was a lot of chaos already happened in the process of making it, and when everything was complete, the Stone really do be acting up all twisted. I get why it was important for our female protagonist to make the Stone because she had her own valid reasons for wanting to use it, but at the same time she sacrificed so much of herself to complete the process only for the Stone to do a complete 180 turn and betrayed her. Unbelievable!
The Stone was very picky too, it chose who it wanted to wield it. What I couldn’t stand to see was when the Stone rejected those alchemists who tried to make it, those alchemists became mad. The only alchemist who didn’t went mad was the one chosen by the Stone, luckily the chosen one is our smart protagonist, Thea. I really can’t believe seeing how bad the effects of making the Stone was to those who got rejected by it. The madness was too much to bear, and it was like seeing someone was possessed by an evil entity and did things they had no idea about because they weren’t conscious when they did it even though their eyes are wide open. It was terrifying enough for me to see.
Aside from all of that, I also loved the setting of the story. It was very gloomy which really set the frightening vibe on the story and also why this book can be quite terrifying but not in the horror way. It was also quite enjoyable to read a story with this type of setting, really set the mood for reading in rainy days and it gives me a very strong dark academia feel. Also, the languages used in this book was a great combination, and really made the story look even more powerful in my opinion. You have English for the majority, and some French and German too. Amazing languages in an amazing book? This book is so high-class.
In this book, you have a teenage girl being sent to live with her father who had no idea of her existence, two teenagers running away to save their lives, another teenager in hiding from bad soldiers, a bad man with a good heart, using the study of Alchemy to make the Philosopher’s Stone, the said Stone acted strangely, a double betrayal, more madness and chaos, stressful situations, and lastly there was little-to-no romance at all which I really don’t mind because this book did great without having any romance in it.
Thea is the protagonist and she is fierce, smart, and loyal. A young woman of high quality, and also a young woman who is pretty with a genius brain. Despite getting her work stolen twice, she never give up hope, she kept on working so hard to reach her goals, and for that I really admired her. She was also a loyal and good friend to Will and Dominic, never once did she ever forget them, she always remembered them and wanted to save their lives by using the Stone.
She’d been through a lot in the story, the things she had to deal with are so exhausting. The fact that she still managed to keep everything together even though her world was like it might fall apart made me respected her even more. Not many can handle big challenges like she does.
At first, I thought she was a stuck-up person but the more I know her, the more I can see that she wasn’t that person at all. She was actually kind and selfless but I totally get it if someone view her as an arrogant person due to her pissy look and how she can sometimes be judgmental toward other people. I disliked her at first because of how she acted, but the more I get to know her better the more I warmed up to her character. It takes time obviously but know this, Thea is actually a very nice young woman, only problem was the way her mother raised her.
Her mother wasn’t all that bad but she was too controlling that she always told Thea to be a proper lady and always appreciate the lavish things in life, and her mother was also very judgmental toward other people—especially people from the lower class. I disliked her mother a lot because she couldn’t even be proud of her own daughter for successfully making the Philosopher’s Stone, she was too arrogant and self-absorbed. I really feel bad for Thea but at least she have her father.
Thea is a phenomenal and a brilliant young woman, she is a legend in her mid-teens and already made history by successfully creating the Philosopher’s Stone. Her level of intelligence is admirable. Her selflessness showed that she doesn’t care what happen to her, as long as the people she hold dear are fine. She sacrificed so much of herself to make the Stone even after she knew the huge risk and what it will cost her. Her character growth make her so likable.
Dominic is a sweet and kindhearted young man. He is the total opposite of Thea in so many ways, but he is definitely Thea’s only good friend, well scratch that, he is her only friend. Anyone would be lucky to have him as their friend. I really liked his character a lot. He was so humble, so kind, respected Thea’s privacy, he even gave Thea a space to think things, and he also offered Thea to stay at his mother’s house when her father didn’t know what to do with her. His attitude and personality is worth swooning over. He was so good toward other people even though some people doesn’t deserve his kindness.
It wasn’t only Thea who sacrificed herself for others, Dominic was too in order to save Thea’s life. These two have the best friendship ever. Despite experiencing the hell he was in after trying to complete the process of making the Stone, he still did it again to help Thea. The sacrifices these two made was not what I expected at all and it was a very big sacrifice. I loved their friendship so much, and liked that the author didn’t try to put them into a romantic relationship together. Their friendship was so pure and they brought balance into their friendship.
Will is another of Thea’s friend, well ex-boyfriend actually but that doesn’t matter since Thea kept referring to him as her friend so let me just stick with that. He was a good guy that turns out to be not so good. I can smell that he was not a very trustworthy person from miles away. He was acting so suspicious for the majority of the book that I wasn’t even surprised to see what he did to Thea later on. Well, Thea can be a bit naive when it comes to Will because in her mind, he was a good guy and that made it easy for him to do something behind her back. That was Thea’s only flaw which is trusting Will after haven’t seen him for a long time.
Will was clever in playing his game and made nearly everyone believed him, but he wasn’t clever enough like Thea or Dominic when it comes to Alchemy. Will really thought he did something great at the end there while that was clearly the cheapest thing he had done and not a good one too. I feel that Will’s character was being wasted and that he had zero purpose of being in the story at all. I don’t see what was so important about him other than being the only person to help the Germans get their hands on the only alchemist who can make the Stone. Will has got to be the only unredeemable character in this book, he was so arrogant and selfish from the moment Thea and Dominic found him until the end. I just can’t stand his character.
Professor Vellacott is Thea’s father and surprisingly, he is actually a good man with a good heart and I understood why he didn’t acted all fatherly toward Thea when they first met. He didn’t knew he had a daughter at all, and Thea’s sudden appearance made him panicked because he didn’t know what to do. But he did try so hard to get to know her better and even asked her to give him a chance to prove to her that he can be a good father to her. I really liked the changes in Vellacott’s character as the story goes on, he developed into someone so caring and someone who just wanted protect his daughter and wanted what was best for her.
I liked that he supported Thea even though they didn’t know each other really well and even when she was being rude to him and always dismissed him because she was hurt he didn’t know what to do with her early on. It was really nice to see the development of their father-daughter relationship, and to see Thea started to accept the fact that Vellacott is her biological father. It was tough for her at first but it wasn’t hard for her father to earn her trust and respect. I was really happy with how the story ended for them, to see both of them happy and to see his father started making plans on what he will do to make their life easier as a small family once everything with the Philosopher’s Stone is truly over.
To be honest, after everything Thea had to go through in the story, she really deserve to go live with her father than continue to stay with her mother. Her mother was rude to her at the end even after what Thea did to keep her safe. She even belittled Thea, that hurts me seeing how Thea couldn’t get her mother to be proud of her. I was really happy knowing what Thea chose to do at the end there, and she made the right choice too for choosing to go with her father. At least her father is proud of her and been praising her a lot. Vellacott is really one of the best fictional fathers.
Valentin is one of the Germans who captured Dominic and Thea after Will told him where to find them. He was the captain of the Germans and is actually a very bad man. He wasn’t only a captor, but he was also a torturer. I had a bit of a soft spot for him when he started to become a bit kind to Thea. The more time he spend with Thea, the more he started to feel a bit protective of her as if she is his own sister. He was still being too rough and harsh to her after that, but I can’t deny that he did all he could to help Thea. He was so conflicted at one point when something happened to Thea during the process of making the Stone and even ready to give up his position as a captain just so he can save Thea’s, Dominic’s, and Vellacott’s lives.
I admit that Valentin is cruel but on the inside there was a bit of a kindness there. I’ve never seen a more interesting bad guy character than Valentin. He was unique to me and that was because he wasn’t too good but he wasn’t too bad either, he was like a mix of both sides. That’s what made him interesting.
The ending was really bittersweet to me. I’d hoped for a different ending but the one I got was fine too in an emotional way. It would be nice if there’s a novella to give an insight to the readers on how Thea’s life is like living with her father, and how her friendship with Dominic is going. I liked how the author wrap things up for this book despite the flaws in the story like: why we didn’t meet Graff Ludwig when he was mentioned many times, where did Rahel disappeared to, and will Graff Ludwig ever come to find Thea since he still needed the Philosopher’s Stone??? So many questions but I would like to think that everything will be fine for everyone.
This book took me by surprise because for a debut standalone novel, I didn’t expect too much from it but what I got was far better. Usually, a debut novel is a hit or miss but luckily this one turns out to be successful. It was an enjoyable book to read and definitely one of the best debut novel I’ve read this year. I’m looking forward to read more books from the author. Everything was solid and on point; the story, the plot, the pacing, the development, the characters, and the Alchemy theme. Experiencing this story was really great, to witness everything from the characters point of views are magical.
Samantha Cohoe writes historically-inspired young adult fantasy. She was raised in San Luis Obispo, California, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood of beach trips, omnivorous reading, and writing stories brimming with adverbs. She currently lives in Denver with her family and divides her time among teaching Latin, mothering, writing, reading, and deleting adverbs. A Golden Fury is her debut novel.