Fires of Hell – The Alchemystic: Introduction
The Fires of Hell – The Alchemystic takes us aboard the freight airship Winged Mercury and into the company of Amelia Everley. She’s been an engineer on board for ten years with her Captain. But when he’s found dead in Turkey under suspicious circumstances, Amelia must protect her ship and crew from sabotage. With the aid of her magical skill with fire, can she find the killer and protect her new employer?
Fires of Hell – The Alchemystic: Overview
Typically, novels like to gently draw the reader into the story. Maybe by using a prologue or at least a little back story to set the scene. Fires of Hell does no such thing. From the get go, you’re thrown into the scene of a gruesome murder with enough detail on the gore to conjure up an appropriate image in your mind.
After the impact of the murder, the book takes a more meandering, pace as the author deals with the funeral and emotions that come with it.
Amelia spends the majority of her time living a lie. She passes herself off as a man in order to work as the engineer on the airship she’s assigned to. It’s a world where women have their place and to make life even harder for the protagonist, she’s the daughter of a courtesan and a phlogistologist.
The word phlogiston comes from Greek, meaning “burning up”. Phlogiston was believed by 18th century scientists to be a chemical held by all flammable substances and released upon combustion. In Mills’ world, phlogistologists can manipulate fire and are sought after to be taken into custody and used for military purposes or sold at auction like slaves.
Following the death of her captain, Amelia has to deal with a new captain who doesn’t like her, a mysterious passenger on their new voyage and sabotage of the Winged Mercury.
Amelia comes across as a very proud and independent woman. Someone that is generally welcomed in steampunk worlds, but not – it seems – in this one. From the early chapters, she makes promises that she doesn’t wish to hold, fights natural desires that would overwhelm others and regrets inaction even while at the brink of exhaustion. However, there also seems an underlying immaturity of someone who overreacts due to their emotions. This could be due to spending her formative years in a small world. Possibly fuelled by the need to constantly prove herself in a world where women are treated as delicate flowers. Whenever her motives are questioned, she bristles in annoyance that someone should doubt her sincerity.
The story rolls through a difficult journey from London back to Constantinople (where the book opens with the murder). The airship is sabotaged in various ways by an unknown assailant during the journey. Once there, the hunt for the previous captain’s killer commences.
Despite the story starting with a bang, it settles into a well paced novel with plenty happening. In both action and conversation. With a little deduction, it’s easy to work out who is behind the sabotage. Albeit without all the details that are revealed.
Fires of Hell – The Alchemystic: Conclusion
All thirty three chapters are easy to read. It’s a well written novel, I found it easy to get into with no discernible spelling errors or grammatical anomalies. Interestingly enough, there’s only mild steampunk themes running through the book. Other than the use of airships and the gas bags filled with aether, it could possibly be mistaken for Victoriana. That’s not really a criticism; more a desire, maybe. Indeed, I find it fascinating that with only these mild suggestions of steampunk, that I was still satisfied that it falls in the genre. There was more emphasis placed on Amelie’s ability with fire which could possibly place it under fantasy fiction.
All characters are very well written with rich histories and all protagonists are likeable. I found it interesting that the antagonist was written about so pleasantly while their true identity was hidden. Yet at the same time, they come across as completely unlikeable. That’s exactly how you want to feel about that type of person; someone who just doesn’t sit right with you.
Mills has managed to cover multiple genres with Fires of Hell. As well as the aforementioned steampunk and fantasy fiction, there’s some murder mystery, a little thriller and even some romance to boot. It also touches lightly on the politics of high society. Predominantly how certain people were treated with derision in the 19th century.
I assume that The Alchemystic is going to be a series of books with Fires of Hell being the first of them. This is an interesting steampunk world that Mills is creating and with a good, steady writing style, will easily turn into a series of books worth collecting.
You can see what the author is doing here: Maureen L Mills Publishing Page
Or her wbsite which shows where she is on her next novel: Maureen L Mills website