This book is an action-packed adventure from start to finish. Bestselling author Kacen Callender creates a unique, magic-filled world adding original ideas and twists to many fantasy tropes. Our protagonist, Ash Woods, wants nothing more than to study alchemy at the prestigious Lancaster College. He crosses paths with Ramsay Thorne, an icy assistant professor who ropes Ash in on a dangerous quest for the hidden Book of Source.
One of the highlights of this book is the magic system. In just a few hundred pages, Callender’s clever world building illustrates a society that both reveres and detests alchemy (Source). The explanations of the different Houses and tiers of alchemy are masterfully done, without seeming overly expositional. Each new fact learned about Ash’s world leaves the reader wanting to know more, as hungry to discover the mysteries of the Book of Source as the characters. At the heart of this book is a love story between well-written and fleshed-out characters. Fans of the enemies-to-lovers trope will get a thrill watching Ash and Ramsay’s relationship flourish. The book also has a unique spin on the love triangle trope, one that is rarely seen in children’s literature.
From gender identity to classism, this novel handles many different themes, some of which are more suitable for an older audience. There are perhaps too many ideas packed in, with certain topics lacking the attention they deserve, but nonetheless, this book is a definite page turner and a great addition to YA Fantasy.