Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Elusive Elixir

The Elusive Elixir
by Gigi Pandian
Recommended Ages: 15+

Zoe Faust looks like any other 20-something Vegan antique dealer and organic herbalist. In spite of her prematurely white hair, she fits right in with the Portland, Oregon tea-room crowd. But actually, she is an alchemist who, except for her hair, has not aged since the 1700s, when she found the elixir of life. She returns to Paris, the scene of a World War II-era heartache, in search of a dark alchemical secret that may help save her best friend, a living gargoyle named Dorian, from reverting to lifeless stone. But against all odds, she is recognized by a woman who was a child when they last met in 1942, and who refuses to buy Zoe's story that she simply looks like, and is named after, her grandmother.

Forced to flee back to Portland ahead of a possible police investigation of a 75-year-old murder she knew nothing about until now, Zoe thinks it's going to be hard to face Dorian after failing to find his cure. But there are much bigger problems awaiting her back at home. Her friend Ivan, dying of cancer, now knows alchemy exists and has become obsessed with finding the elixir of life. Her relationship with Max, a detective who only believes in what can be rationally explained, may not survive him finding out alchemy is real. Fourteen-year-old Brixton, who is in on her secret, stumbles upon a murder that seems somehow to be connected with alchemy - or, worse, to "backward alchemy," a perverted shortcut to transformation that relies on sacrifice to achieve its goals. A figure from Zoe's past, long believed dead, resurfaces but cannot be trusted. And it seems someone is trying to steal a powerful, dark book from Zoe's workshop, one that may contain the secret to saving Dorian. The mysteries and menaces surrounding Zoe, Dorian, and the book build to a climax that threatens the life of one person she cares about and the soul of another.

This third book in the "Accidental Alchemist" series is a finely-seasoned mystery thriller, with a dash of sexy romance, a pinch of macabre occultism, a heaping spoonful of authentic history (including Zoe's personal connection to good old Nicholas Flamel), and a generous splash of humor. Its quirky, endearing characters include one stone chimera who enjoys gourmet cooking, another who drinks a lot and quotes French poetry, and a heroine based on the author's own experiences as a breast cancer survivor who swears by her organic Vegan lifestyle. It also has an inventive take on the secrets of alchemy, including a completely original "backward" version that will give many readers the heebie-jeebies.

Previous books in this series are The Accidental Alchemist and The Masquerading Magician. Pandian, a San Francisco Bay area author, has also written the four "Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries" and many short stories. This latest book is due to be released Jan. 8, 2017. My review is based on a pre-publication Kindle proof made available through Netgalley dot com.

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