Fires of Hell: The Alchemystic
Maureen L. Mills
When her captain is murdered and her airship suffers a series of sabotages, airship engineer and rogue pyromancer, Amelia Everley, must put aside her dislike of her new employer, Josiah, and help him save her airship and crew.
But is the destruction aimed at their mysterious government passenger, or is the captain’s killer now after Josiah?
All Amelia knows is, if Josiah can’t learn to respect her skills, she may have to resign herself to working for his rival, Edmund Fairlane.
If, that is, she can bring herself, her crew, and her ship home in one piece.
Amelia is a young phlogistologist (pyromancer) who is working as an engineer’s apprentice about the airship Mercury. When her captain, Edmund Rollins, is murdered, things begin to change. She receives a promotion, but the new captain (Josiah Rollins, the son of her former captain) does not know at first that she is a woman, much less a pyromancer. Since society views pyromancers as evil and dangerous, she cannot reveal her abilities to anyone. She struggles to prove herself to Josiah while helping him acclimate to the Mercury. At the same time, she attempts to find out more about the murder of Edmund Rollins. Strange things are happening aboard the Mercury. Can Amelia figure out what is happening and prove her worth to Josiah while keeping her pyromancy a secret? Or will everything fall apart?
This was the very first steampunk novel I have ever read, and I was not disappointed! It seems to be a very popular genre, and I never understood the reasons until now. I really enjoyed the setting and the technical aspects of the steam-powered airships (even though I did not understand everything.) This book was completely engaging. The characters were incredibly well-written, and the pace and plotline were truly fantastic. I loved the mix of fantasy, romance, action, and mystery. The main character was very likeable. She was a very talented and very kind person who did not come across as annoying. Although she did have something to prove (living in a society where women were less respected than they are now) it did not come across as anachronistic to me. She was simply doing what she needed to do to survive and make her way in the world. I thought the author did an excellent job of making her both intelligent and strong but also vulnerable and uncertain at time.
Her relationship with Josiah and, indeed, the rest of the crew was fascinating. I loved that they respected her but did not just fawn over her as I see happen with female characters in so many other books. Her story is very uplifting. She made her own choices and worked hard to do what she could to make her life what she wanted it to be. She never looked down on or judged her mother’s profession (prostitution), but she knew that she wanted more for her own life. The romance aspect was wonderfully described. Sometimes attraction is totally unexplainable, and I think this book portrayed this well. AND I loved that people were not just jumping into bed with one another. There was a sense of honor and propriety throughout.
I also really enjoyed the “alchemistic” aspects of this book. It was just the right amount of magic/fantasy to include. The story was more about her journey than about her abilities, but the alchemistic additions were very interesting. (I would love to read more about what the earth and water alchemistics do.)
I would love to read more from this author. I enjoyed every single word of this book. It held my attention from the first page to the last. I learned a few new words, and I got a great introduction into the world of steampunk! Reviewed by Emily