A book recommend to me by someone else (multiple people, actually) is A Game of Thrones, but the last book I recall someone suggesting I read — and that I did read! — is…
The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi & illustrated by J.K. Drummond
Published January 31st, 2011 | Subterranean Press
Magic has a price. But someone else will pay.
Every time a spell is cast, a bit of bramble sprouts, sending up tangling vines, bloody thorns, and threatening a poisonous sleep. It sprouts in tilled fields and in neighbors’ roof beams, thrusts up from between street cobbles, and bursts forth from sacks of powdered spice. A bit of magic, and bramble follows. A little at first, and then more–until whole cities are dragged down under tangling vines and empires lie dead, ruins choked by bramble forest. Monuments to people who loved magic too much.
In paired novellas, award-winning authors Tobias Buckell and Paolo Bacigalupi explore a shared world where magic is forbidden and its use is rewarded with the axe. A world of glittering memories and a desperate present, where everyone uses a little magic, and someone else always pays the price.
In the beleaguered city of Khaim, a lone alchemist seeks a solution to a deadly threat. The bramble, a plant that feeds upon magic, now presses upon Khaim, nourished by the furtive spell casting of its inhabitants and threatening to strangle the city under poisonous vines. Driven by desperation and genius, the alchemist constructs a device that transcends magic, unlocking the mysteries of bramble’s essential nature. But the power of his newly-built balanthast is even greater than he dreamed. Where he sought to save a city and its people, the balanthast has the potential to save the world entirely–if it doesn’t destroy him and his family first.
I hopefully will get to the Song of Ice & Fire series soon — preferably before the year ends — but I am glad to have read Bacigalupi’s short novella back in 2011. The Alchemist tells the story of Jeoz: widow, father of two, and desperate to cure his sick child. In a place where magic is outlawed, Jeoz risks punishment by casting spells that subdue his daughter’s bramble-induced illness. However, with every cast spell means new bramble: a deadly plant encasing Khaim, threatening to take over completely. Determined to find a solution — both for his child’s health and the end of bramble — Jeoz creates the balanthast, thus providing Khaim the ability to free itself. To the misfortune of Jeoz and his family, this wondrous invention also brings unforeseen consequences.
Ninety-five pages long, Bacigalupi’s words breathe life to the story. Quickly paced, the language proves tactful and not butchered by disruptive sentence flow or poor execution. Instead, I find it a surprisingly fun and lively read — one that I don’t mind reading again and again. I haven’t checked out Tobias S. Buckell’s The Executioness yet, but it may interest you more to read both back-to-back.
You can find my review here!