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Publisher's Summary

Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets - secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona. This doesn't sit well with Loharri, the Mechanic who created Mattie and still has the key to her heart - literally.

©2008 Ekaterina Sedia (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Sedia's evocative third novel, a steampunk fable about the price of industrial development, follows Mattie, an emancipated automaton, as her home city is rent by conflict between alchemists and the mechanics whose clanking, steaming inventions are changing society....Sedia's exquisitely bleak vision deliberately skewers familiar ideas from know-it-all computers to talking statues desperate for souls, leaving readers to reach their own conclusions about the proper balance of tradition and progress and what it means to be alive." ( Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about The Alchemy of Stone

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Steam Punk with a fizzle

The title drew me to this book more than anything else. There is something magical and promising about it.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Eileen Stevens. I enjoyed the voices she gave to Mattie (the automaton), Nairobi (spelling could be off here), and the stone gargoyles, but her male voices left something to be desired. When she was narrating, her voice was a bit flat and monotonous. I almost gave up part way through, but managed to perservere to the end.

I liked the concept of the protagonist - a machine that can reason, feel physical pain and pleasure, as well as identify to a specific gender and emote enough to fall in love. The only thing lacking is a soul. The themes throughout the book were that of political power, subservience, and oppression of caste.

I was intrigued by the characters Mattie, Nairobi, and the Soul Smoker.

A few things were confusing to me. It seemed incongruous to have a sophisticated automaton in a technically backwards society. At the end of the civil unrest, I was still uncertain as to what it was all about. Character development seemed to be lacking in some of the characters that would have helped in making the story cohesive. Perhaps these things were lost in interpretation by the narrator.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Supernatural Prose Creates Haunting World

Great listen. Eileen Stevens is one of the best narrators I've ever heard. Her portrayal of the characters was fresh and charismatic. Ekaterina Sedia has created a world so different and wonderful, she could write a series of novels set in its passages. Alas, it is refreshing to know she isn't one of 'those' writers. If you like other worldly and urban fantasy come no further, this book is for you. I couldn't wait to hear more.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

lovely

The story has uneven parts and plots but Mattie is a fragile life in the reader's mind and perhaps heart by the end of the story. E. Sedia demonstrates within development of certain characters difficult predicaments in understanding words. There is something unexpected to living truth and Sedia has led the reader into this reminder. Mattie is a unique creature in reading and the audio version is easier to find her than actual reading. Two points about discovery through listening depend on narrator and the difficulty of reading the end first. The narrator was essential to Mattie but perhaps more experience with the difficulties of narrating multiple characters would have helped the whole book. Mattie is the book for me and the narrator made her a lovely, complex mystery. This is book is far more interesting than its faults.

7 people found this helpful

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Automaton in the middle of insurrection

Ekaterina Sedia's The Alchemy of Stone is a dreamy tale told through the character of an emancipated automaton who works as an alchemist, one of the two dominant groups (the other being mechanics) of elites in a steampunk sort of universe. There are also peasants as well as immigrant; both treated as little more than disposable labor. Finally, there are gargoyles, the original builders of the city who employ the alchemist to relieve them of their fate of eventually turning to stone. There are ongoing political struggles for city dominance and some unknown group is involved with terrorist acts.

Sedia has crafted a fantasy, steampunk realm that in many ways mirrors current conditions with alchemists and mechanics representing elites vying for influence with the city's rulers along with a lower class of interchangeable workers who are constantly displaced by the efforts of the mechanics. There are several intriguing characters including a soul smoker, although the role of the gargoyles is never clearly delineated. Finally, there an odd pseudo-sexual relationship between the automaton and her creator.

The narration is reasonable, although character distinction is limited and the choice of a brooding, breathy rendition to convey the thoughts of the gargoyles can get annoying.

2 people found this helpful

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just not quite there

This book seemed to have lots of things going for it. Interesting premise, variety of different and intriguing characters, individual problems and civil unrest, a mix of fantasy and steam punk. But for some reason I still didn't really like it. I still have trouble pinpointing exactly what I didn't like.

Maybe it was that the political background wasn't really explained that fully, and so it's hard to get emotionally invested in the conflict which drives the main plot. Lots of books I find get too wrapped up in explaining the intricate political and social system that they've created, so much so that it swamps the plot. But this one could definitely have had more context.

Or, maybe it's that while almost all the characters have interesting back-stories they just don't seem to interact naturally. The conversations and interactions seem forced and stilted. Characters do things for reasons I don't understand. So, between not caring about the civil war and not understanding why the characters do what they do, it's sort of hard to care about what happens at all.

2 people found this helpful

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  • AE
  • 01-26-22

Great

Absolutely loved it! Highly recommend. Excellent escape into an imaginative wworld. Loved the understated twisted psychological plot development.
Truly excellent characters!

1 person found this helpful

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💖

I loved this so much more than I expected to! Please read this! And the voice actor is really good!

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what an ending!

It was a great story, but I don't really like sad endings. It is a great story could go into a movie and I wouldn't say that about many of them.

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freakin awesome

very cool story, kept my interest all the way through. would love a sequal. thank you

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Story was OK

It might have just been that I’m not used to reading steam punk books. But honestly I could see why this was a free book I had to speed up the stories several times just to get through it.