on Jan. 8, 2016
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Also in this series: The Accidental Alchemist
Deciphering an ancient alchemy book is more difficult than Zoe Faust bargained for. She'd much rather be gardening and exploring her new home of Portland, Oregon—but time is running out for living gargoyle Dorian Robert-Houdin. If Zoe isn t able to unlock the alchemy book's secrets soon, the French gargoyle will remain awake but trapped in stone forever.
When Zoe gives herself a rare night out to attend a classic magic show that reminds her of her youth, she realizes the stage magicians are much more than they seem. A murder at the theater leads back to a string of unsolved robberies and murders in Portland's past, and a mystery far more personal than Zoe and Dorian ever imagined.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
The Masquerading Magician is the sequel to last year’s The Accidental Alchemist, and it doesn’t disappoint. Granted, the mystery isn’t quite as solid or exciting, but the book carries forward and further develops a story arc from the first book: Zoe’s search for an alchemical (or rather, backward alchemical) cure for whatever is slowly turning Dorian the living gargoyle back into stone. I can’t call that story arc “secondary” because it drives most of Zoe’s actions, including her involvement in this installment’s mystery. In fact, the Dorian/backward-alchemy storyline is the primary plot this time around, but because it really interests me, I see that as a strength rather than a weakness. It’s the stronger of the two storylines, and the more compelling.
I was pleased to see that Pandian has fixed some of the things I found frustrating in the first book. (see review) Because the author explores more of Zoe’s backstory, I had an easier time believing in Zoe’s age in this book, although she’s still surprisingly comfortable with modern slang and technology. (Not perfectly so, however: her website is outdated and far from mobile-friendly.) And while food remains important to both Zoe and Dorian, Pandian has dialed back the frequency and detail of the food-preparation scenes so that they flow with the narrative rather than interrupting it.
As for the mystery itself, it’s a bit of a hotchpotch: a stage magician who may or may not be a famous jewel thief — and perhaps an alchemist as well; a murdered audience member; and a hunt for the hidden jewels. All of it becomes muddled up with Zoe’s quest for a cure for Dorian, and with Dorian’s own propensity for getting into trouble. The actual mystery isn’t as gripping as in the last book, but the Zoe/Dorian/alchemy story more than makes up for that lack.
Zoe’s young friend Brixton is still involved, not always sensibly, but perhaps not as deeply as he was in The Accidental Alchemist. The relationship between Zoe and police detective Max Liu is still simmering, and just as problematic as in the first book, given her secrets and his disapproval of her involvement in the case. Other characters from the first book — Ivan, Brixton’s friends, his mother — are much more in the background this time.
There are flashback chapters about the book of backward alchemy Zoe is studying; about stage magician Robert-Houdin, who accidentally brought Dorian to life; about Dorian’s early life; and about Zoe’s former lover and mentor Ambrose, who died almost a century ago (or did he?) Another old friend of Zoe’s surfaces as well; he’s interesting and a bit mysterious, and I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him. In fact, I have the distinct sense that Pandian is setting up a number of threads that will come together in future books.
I’m not quite sure how to categorize the Accidental Alchemist series. It’s not a cozy series in the strict sense of the term, because the ongoing series plot is at least as important as the mysteries solved in each book. You could call it paranormal mystery, given the living gargoyle and the focus on alchemy, but since paranormal is increasingly defined as containing witches/shifters/vampires/demons/angels, and this series has none of those, “paranormal” may not quite suit either. Rather than pigeonhole it, I think I’ll just continue to enjoy Zoe, Dorian, and the rest. After all the hints and threads Pandian laid down in The Masquerading Magician, I’m certainly looking forward to book three!
- January 8 – Back Porchervations – Review
- January 9 – Queen of All She Reads – Review
- January 10 – Cozy Up With Kathy – Review
- January 11 – The Bookwyrm’s Hoard – Review
- January 11 – Fantastic Feathers – Spotlight
- January 12 – deal sharing aunt – Spotlight
- January 12 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – Spotlight
- January 13 – fuonlyknew – Review
- January 14 – The Girl with Book Lungs – Spotlight
- January 15 – Mallory Heart Reviews – Review
- January 16 – Brooke Blogs – Spotlight
- January 17 – Teresa Trent Author – Review
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Going Back To Basics (Winter 2015-2016)
- Cruisin' Thru the Cozies 2016