Read Alchemy of Fire by Gillian Bradshaw Online


Constantinople, 672 ad. Ex-concubine Anna is attempting to raise her daughter well, but as an Arab invasion threatens and Kallinikos an alchemist working on a secret weapon to use in the seige comes into their lives, a secret about her daughter is forced into the open. Anna must accept huge upheaval, and recognize her feelings for Kallinikos . . ....

Title : Alchemy of Fire
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780727860972
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Alchemy of Fire Reviews

  • Nikki
    2019-03-30 21:54

    If you’re looking for thoughtful, well-researched historical fiction, Gillian Bradshaw is a good bet — and she doesn’t always stick to the beaten path, producing stories about Caesars and Cleopatras. Island of Ghosts, for example, surprised me by having a Samartian hero, serving the Roman army in Britain. Not an Italian, not a Brit, but a whole different view I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do before. Her writing reminds me of Rosemary Sutcliff, at times — it scratches the same sort of itch — though her books are more adult.Alchemy of Fire is set in Constantinople, and follows the fortunes of the owner of a perfume shop. There’s intrigue and politicking, and there’s romance as well, and the story is set against the backdrop of the Arab attacks on Constantinople. It’s the invention of ‘Greek fire’, but it also deals with motherhood and the experience of seeing a child you love grow up, with grief, with falling in love against all sense and without realising, but not in some instantaneous magical way. The emotional journey felt real, and I was rooting for it from the beginning because it didn’t feel as though Anna was somehow destined to marry. It felt like it could have remained friendship, or ended badly, or… anything.I found it touching and absorbing, even though I wouldn’t call it “unputdownable”. It takes its time, for all that it only comprises 250 pages or so. It didn’t strike me with brilliance like a couple of Bradshaw’s other books, but I enjoyed it.Reviewed for The Bibliophibian.

  • Ozymandias
    2019-03-29 20:15

    Plot: 3 (distracted and overly fractured)Characters: 5 (genuine personalities not given sufficient development)Accuracy: 10 (well-researched account including many obscure details)The 7th century Arab siege of Constantinople is a great setting for a novel and the invention of Greek Fire is an amazing achievement in its own right. However, the book fails utterly to capture any sense of this wonder/horror. In fact, it seems largely uninterested in the Fire aspect and instead focuses on the perfume-manufacturing love interest of Callimachus, the Fire’s inventor. There’s nothing wrong with this and nothing says that a book about the Fire has to be about the Fire’s creator, but it quickly becomes apparent that the Fire is a sideshow to the main plot. Instead, the plot deals with the former concubine of Theodosius, a now dead and disgraced member of the imperial family, and her daughter with him. The interesting elements here are in seeing how one’s sense of identity can change when placed in a different environment. Specifically, the transition from being a reasonably free daughter of the lower class to being a tightly constrained princess of the royal line. This is an interesting story to tell. However, this isn’t the main story either. In fact, there is no main story. What we get is a lot of smaller plotlines stacked on top of each other and dragged out beyond reasonableness. It’s basically a slice-of-life novel, which is not what I expected or wanted really given the premise.As for the two main plots: the Greek Fire plotline is never really developed, it’s merely the excuse for some class and employer conflict as Callimachus’ boss tries to suppress him to save his own job. Despite the opportunities to explore the technology and nature of Byzantine inventors we’re left with another clichéd corrupt nobleman story that has very little new to say. When Greek Fire is actually used it’s in the last chapter of the book, and while the description is good it’s very brief and perfunctory. The imperial princess plot is handled better, as it’s given more time, but since our only POV character is Anna, the girl’s mother, we never really go into depth here either. Instead we skip ahead two years and spend the last few chapters safely free from having to witness the actual drama that was the driving thrust of the first half. Wouldn’t want a reason to actually care.I appreciate some of the thought that went into this and the unique choice of topics, but in general this book gives us little reason to care about the characters or the plot. It’s unfocused, with Greek Fire being used as a catalyst to tie some otherwise tricky plot threads together. Despite the unique setting, the plot seems clichéd and unimaginative. I think its worst sin though is introducing plot elements and emotional journeys that it never follows through on. Most notably, the way in which the main conflict of the first half of the novel (her fears of her daughter being stolen from her by the imperial family) is basically ignored in the second half. She’s just content with it now, and so’s her daughter. This is just lazy writing, and I don’t get why it had to be this way. If you want to tell the story of an illegitimate offspring of the imperial line then commit to that. If you don’t then focus on something else. Just because a novel’s set in the Byzantine empire doesn’t mean it needs to focus on byzantine machinations. Particularly not when the author seems generally uninterested in them.

  • Liz
    2019-03-27 23:10

    Anna has made it a point in her life to remain fiercely independent in a world where a woman is expected to marry. Formerly the concubine of the brother of the Emperor, who died in disgrace, she has devoted herself to raising their now twelve-year-old daughter, Theodosia, and to running the successful perfume shop she owns. When a grubby stranger named Kallinikos arrives at her shop, wanting to buy used perfume-making equipment, she treats him as she treats all other men -- as a potential threat to her way of life. Kallinikos is an alchemist, studying the ways of fire. He explains that he is developing a new kind of fire, one more destructive than any that can be imagined. With the threat of an Arab invasion of Constantinople looming ever darker on the horizon, he believes that his invention will be of great value. Unwittingly, Anna finds herself drawn to him, fascinated not only by his work, but by the man behind it. As the threat of war grows ever closer, and with Kallinikos' work -- and therefore the safety of the city -- being jeopardized by a jealous superior officer, Anna must decide what her feelings for Kallinikos are and what she is willing to sacrifice for him.This book was an interesting take on the invention of greek fire. It was a good, light read that didn't overly tax my brain, but at the same time it was nothing earth-shatteringly grand. Gillian Bradshaw is one of my favorite authors of historical fiction, but all in all I definitely preferred her Island of Ghosts and The Sand-Reckoner to this book. Both of those books, it seemed, had a lot more depth of plot and character than this. Still, it was an enjoyable read for a lazy Saturday at home.

  • Margaret
    2019-04-14 02:07

    Gillian Bradshaw is one of my favorite historical fiction writers, so I look forward eagerly to new books from her. Sadly, Alchemy of Fire was a disappointment (and I say that with great reluctance). Set in Constantinople in the 7th century CE, it tells the story of Anna, a perfume maker whose daughter is the product of Anna's union with the now-dead brother to an emperor, and of Kallinikos, a Syrian who has fled to Constantinople to escape the Arab invasion and is now working on a secret weapon with which to fight the Arabs.Bradshaw is usually skilled at bringing other times and cultures to life in her fiction, but this time, the characters and setting fail to come completely alive. The dialogue is wooden (and filled with italics -- so many that I counted nineteen italicized words on two consecutive pages at one point), and I never really cared about the characters or the plots they were caught up in. Having been reading lately about medieval Islam, I was intrigued to see what Bradshaw might make of its clash with Byzantium, but unfortunately, the answer was: not much. Skip this and go read The Beacon at Alexandria instead, if you haven't read Bradshaw before. You'll get a much better sense of what she can do with historical fiction.

  • Sharonewoods
    2019-04-18 03:06

    I really like Gillian Bradshaw, but I think I've read too many of her books. I found this novel completely predictable. The characters -- beautiful independent business woman and nerdy scientist love interest -- were identical to those that have appeared in her other historical novels. The plot didn't have any twists or surprises, and the setting of Constantinople didn't really shine through as vividly as some of Bradshaw's other venues. So, a nice read, but not quite as enjoyable as I was hoping.

  • Cheryl
    2019-04-15 00:24

    Alchemy of Fire by Gillian Bradshaw is a well researched historical drama about Anna, a single mother, and her teenaged daughter living in seventh-century Constantinople just before an invasion threatens the city and their lives. Anna is in a unique position as a woman shop-owner; she is a perfumer, distilling her own essences from local flowers and herbs. Interesting story with meticulous details describing life in Constantinople at that time.

  • Yune
    2019-03-26 02:24

    I was warned about this book.Bradshaw never manages to bring this together; the perfume-maker is never convincing about her work; the alchemist charmless; the illegitimate daughter of an emperor's brother, a brat. It's as though she's become so accustomed to creating appealing characters in historical settings that she tried a shortcut and never laid the groundwork of her other works.

  • Kristyn Jensen
    2019-04-02 04:06

    This was a very cute story. I felt like it was a little short and the events could have gone by a little faster and maybe over a longer period of time. I feel like there were loose ends. Like her worries and concerns for her daughter's future. I gave it 4 stars mainly cause it was a really nice little story.

  • Megan
    2019-04-05 22:17

    The story starts slow, but it was more interesting once I saw where it was going. I didn't quite care enough about the main character or her daughter, but the supporting cast was good, particularly the enthusiastic eunuch. Some of the plot line follows The Sand Reckoner (which did it better), but this was still an enjoyable book.

  • RiverShore
    2019-04-16 22:03

    so far, i'm not into this book.usually, there is a real depth to her characters that seems to be missing in this book. i'm disappointed because i've really enjoyed the last 3 bradshaw books that i've read. maybe it will get better....i'm on page 100.

  • Joshlyn
    2019-03-25 21:06

    Not bad. I like Gillian Bradshaw so I can be forgiving of boring parts of the book. Her books always have an interesting, strong female character and are good historical fiction.

  • Beth
    2019-04-04 02:24

    Outstanding historical fiction. I am enjoying reading all of Gillian Bradshaw's novels, one after another. A delightful treat!

  • Karen
    2019-03-26 20:10

    This is a light-weight but fun historical fiction set in Constantinople from 672-674. It had good pacing and I liked the main character, but it was a little bit lacking in depth.