by Kacen Callender
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Pub Date 06 Feb 2024 | Archive Date 06 Feb 2024
Tor Publishing Group, Tor Teen
Infinity Alchemist is a spellbinding fantasy novel about a quest that leads three young alchemists toward dangerous truth, legendary love, and extraordinary power.
With their signature "prowess" (FIYAH) and "unbridled creativity" (New York Times Book Review), acclaimed author Kacen Callender turns their formidable skill to young adult fantasy for the first time.
The hardcover edition features a beautiful foil jacket and foil case stamp, and special illustrated endpapers.
"Spellbinding." —AIDEN THOMAS • "Thrilling." —ELANA K. ARNOLD • "A blast of heart-racing magic." —ANDREW JOSEPH WHITE • "Expands the possibilities of YA fantasy." —A. R. CAPETTA
For Ash Woods, practicing alchemy is a crime.
Only an elite few are legally permitted to study the science of magic—so when Ash is rejected by Lancaster College of Alchemic Science, he takes a job as the school’s groundskeeper instead, forced to learn alchemy in secret.
When he’s discovered by the condescending and brilliant apprentice Ramsay Thorne, Ash is sure he's about to be arrested—but instead of calling the reds, Ramsay surprises Ash by making him an offer: Ramsay will keep Ash's secret if he helps her find the legendary Book of Source, a sacred text that gives its reader extraordinary power.
As Ash and Ramsay work together and their feelings for each other grow, Ash discovers their mission is more dangerous than he imagined, pitting them against influential and powerful alchemists—Ash’s estranged father included. Ash’s journey takes him through the cities and wilds across New Anglia, forcing him to discover his own definition of true power and how far he and other alchemists will go to seize it.
Featuring trans, queer, and polyamorous characters of color, Infinity Alchemist is the hugely anticipated young adult fantasy debut from the extraordinary author of Felix Ever After, King and the Dragonflies, Queen of the Conquered and more.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 77 members
Thank you to TorTeen for this arc!
This book follows Ash as he is learning alchemy in secret. It is illegal for anyone to practice alchemy without a license. He is working as a groundkeeper at the Lancaster College of Alchemic Science. When he is caught by a brilliant apprentice, Ramsay Thorne, Ash agrees to work with Ramsay. These two are determined to find the legendary Book of Source, a sacred text that gives its readers astounding power.
I enjoyed this book. To me, the world is the most exciting aspect of the book. I have not read a lot of books using alchemy as power. It really made me want to learn more about people's abilities. I thought that the fighting scenes were so good. Honestly, I want this to be adapted into either a tv series or a movie. There is a polyamorous relationship that develops in the later part of the book and I wish I could have spent more time with them. The moments that I got were filled with tenderness. I really like how they communicated. I really could not put this book down. I just needed to know what would happen next. So tea, a second book maybe?
This is my second book by this author and I can't wait to read their backlist and future works.
Infinity Alchemist was a fun and entertaining YA fantasy read. I enjoyed the premise and the world building was mostly well handled (although the constant references to 'the Source' kept making me think of 'the Force'). Once or twice I had some queries on how things worked, but that was minor and didn't pull me out of the story. Ash and Ramsay (and Callum) were all interesting characters and it was great to see the LGBT rep. The only downside I'd say was that, after all the build up, the ending felt a little rushed and too easily resolved. But it was still a satisfying conclusion in many ways, making this a good standalone read for YA fantasy fans. I am giving it four stars.
I really enjoyed the worldbuilding in this work and the idea of alchemy and magic. I had some issues with pacing of the plot. I truly enjoyed the queer poly rep.
Imagine a world where magic resides in all people, although only a select few are allowed to wield any level of meaningful power. Yes, the average human can use level 1 magic to breathe, live, blink, you know, the uncontrollable things needed to stay alive. Even level 2 magic is allowed, typically seen in dancers or athletes or musicians, to help channel more energy than is normal. But only those who are lucky *cough* rich *cough* enough to be accepted at Lancaster College of Alchemic Science are able to become licensed alchemists, able to practice the higher levels of alchemy that only the licensed can, at least legally speaking.
This is the world that Ash Woods lives in. Ash, although not financially gifted enough to be selected as a student at Lancaster, did manage to secure a job as a groundskeeper’s assistant. Despite the illegality of it, he practices his alchemy in secret, hoping one day to be accepted and obtain an alchemic license. That is until he stumbles into Professor Ramsay Thorne’s office and finds himself mixed up in something much more dangerous and potentially world altering than he could have ever imagined.
The characters in this story are absolutely brilliant. There is care and love put into their stories, and the focus of gender identity and sexual orientation is seamlessly and perfectly woven into the world. I adore the thought behind the storyline and the relationship between the 3 main characters. There is great banter, honest emotions, tense situations, and a lot of character growth.
I truly enjoyed this story. There we some times during the middle where the story felt a little more slow moving and it took a little more effort to push through, but I’m so glad I did, because the ending was absolutely wonderful. I hope to read more from Kacen Callender’s brilliant mind, and hope to see future books following this story.
I want to thank NetGalley, Kacen Callender, and TOR Publishing for allowing me to read and review this ARC of Infinity Alchemist.
This was a very character driven story about three young alchemists on the search for a powerful book, that if fallen into the wrong hands, could be devastating.
Ash wasn’t accepted into an elite school of alchemy, he takes a groundskeeper’s position there instead. There he meets Ramsey and the two form an intense bond on their search for the Book of source, the most powerful book on alchemy in existence.
I loved the evolution of their romance, the intensity it was built on. But, outside forces and pasts converge, creating obstacles that are dangerous, putting them in almost constant peril.
There is so much more depth to this book! I loved the storytelling and the diversity among the characters. There is a lot of reconciling with past wrongs, dealing with the reverb of actions of past generations and so so so much emotion.
I really enjoyed this magical, romantic, queer fantasy.
# Infinity Alchemist
★★★★★ - 𝐛𝐨𝐨𝐤 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰
Infinity Alchemist by Kacen Callender
༘Spoiler free ༘
🌶️🌶️ (There are three scenes that the start-up and afterglow is described on page, without being explicit in describing the acts that occur. The primary focus is on kissing)
Young Adult, Fantasy, Genre
➳ ⚧️ LGBTQIA+
➳ ✨ Forbidden Magic/Power
➳ 🛏️ One Bed
➳ 🔗 Forced Proximity
➳ 🌑 Dark
➳ 🏙️ Dystopian
✨“It’s lazy to put a multifaceted human being, created from the alchemy of the universe, into a box of good or bad. No one is only one of the two.“ ✨
Welcome to a world where privilege, power and love intertwine and embark on a dangerous journey that captivates the heart and mind.
Three young alchemists set out on a quest that uncovers some risky truths, legendary love, and extraordinary powers.
Ash Woods, is an alchemy enthusiast living in a world where practising this alchemy without a license is illegal. When Lancaster College of Alchemic Science rejects Ash's application for admission, he ends up working as a groundskeeper’s assistant there, practising alchemy in secret. Ramsay Thorne, a snarky and condescending apprentice, stumbles upon his hidden talents.
Instead of reporting him to the authorities, Ramsay offers Ash a deal. She'll keep his secret if he helps her track down the legendary Book of Source, a tome that gives its reader immense power. As they embark on this mission together, their bond deepens, and Ash realizes this quest is more dangerous than he’d anticipated. They're up against prominent and powerful alchemists, including Ash's estranged father. Their journey spans across the bustling cities and untamed wilderness of New Anglia, forcing Ash to redefine what power means and how far they'll go to take it.
Kacen Callender succeeds in writing a beautifully-constructed imaginative world with an intriguing magic system. This is a foundational necessity when writing YA Fantasy, and Infinity Alchemist delivers. I loved seeing alchemy as the form of magic practised, as it’s one of the less commonly selected magical routes when it comes to YA Fantasy. What sets this book apart from other YA Fantasy books is the way Callender wove diverse representation into this book in a natural and authentic way.
I found myself emotionally invested in all of the characters. They were well developed and felt truly multidimensional to me. Callender succeeded in creating beautifully complex, and lovable characters that housed the same intrinsic flaws we all have. Callum’s blend of strength and softness was a soothing blanket I wanted to curl up with. I found myself wanting to hug Ash and tell him that he’s worthy regardless of how other’s treat him. I wanted to tell Ash the way he has been treated by other people is a reflection of who they are, and that it does not determine his worth. Ramsay is determined and feisty and she has a certain fire that draws you in and makes you love her so easily. (Please note: I am referring to Ramsay as “she” as that was the way she identified when we last saw her at the end of the story.)
[Quotation Pending Verification, will be updated once a response is received from the Publicity Department]
The way Callender tied gender fluidity and gender identity into the concept of the Source, past lives and energy was beautiful, vulnerable and incredibly raw and authentic. I found that element touched me on a deeper level, and truly spoke to me. Not only was gender identity handled delicately, but the relationships within the books were viscerally beautiful. There was a level of heartfelt vulnerability between the characters and i found all of the relationship arcs to be emotionally evocative. While some might’ve found the development to be fast paced, when you consider the memory sharing that occurred between characters you find that they were repeatedly connecting on a soul level we’ve never truly been able to experience ourselves. Seeing them literally share their past memories with each other made me long to do the same in the real world.
One of the prominent themes was the exploration of power, privilege and societal class divisions. This theme was effectively expressed from start to finish. Seeing characters cross the divides regardless of their privilege was satisfying. Everyone was coming from a different angle and melded beautifully. I found the power of love to transform and transcend boundaries to be particularly emotionally poignant. It was the glue that held our unlikely crew together.
After the end of the story I found myself wondering what happens next. I would love to see how power, privilege and societal class and house divisions are handled in the future. I would love a second book, but would settle for an epilogue.
As with many fantasy novels the first 25% of this story packed in a lot of world-building, there was so much to be established and if the book itself was longer this could’ve been more slowly addressed. That being said there are often genre & audience specific guides authors are expected to try to stick to that dictate book length. This is a fast paced book, and it stays fast paced. A lot happens in the course of this book, so much that I felt it could’ve even been split into two books and each part have been elaborated on. That’s not a bad thing in my opinion, I loved the book enough that I wanted to slow down and savour it.
I found the writing to be engaging, vivid and thought-provoking. Kacen Callender created a richly imagined world and brought the magic of alchemy to life. It was immersive and I found myself living within the pages. Kacen Callender’s seamless incorporation and representation of diverse characters should be the gold standard for all fiction authors. The authenticity and inclusiveness was god-tier in Infinity Alchemist.
100% Would recommend this book to all YA Fantasy readers, and truly fantasy readers in general. This book exceeded my expectations and I look forward to reading more from Kacen Callender.
✧･ﾟ: *✧･ﾟ:* *:･ﾟ✧*:･ﾟ✧
Worldbuilding ➷ ✅ 5/5
Foreshadowing ➷ ✅4/5
Plot ➷ ✅ 5/5
Relationships ➷ ✅ 5/5
Thank you to the Kacen Callender, Tor Publishing Group, Tor Teen, and NetGalley for the opportunity to provide my honest opinion on the ARC of this book.
Loved this book! read it in two days, obsessed with the queernorm setting, really great characters. I liked the thematic similarities between the House of Lune and the catholic church -- orphans being cared for in abbeys, keeping the common person away from the word of god (i.e. book of source). I wrote a fuller review on Medium :)
Thank you NetGalley and Tor Publishing Group for this fantastic ARC!!
magic, elitism, love, LGBTQIAP+, polyamory, characters of color, genderfluidity
MMC Ash takes on a position as a groundskeeper’s assistant at Lancaster College of Alchemy after being denied admission to study there. Alchemy, the updated term for magic, can only legally be practiced at the higher levels by those who are licensed alchemists - Ash’s reason for attempting to enroll in Lancaster. When discovered illegally practicing alchemy by graduate apprentice Ramsay Thorne, Ash joins Ramsay’s mission to find the Book of Souce: a text, thought to only be lore, that endows incredible power to those who read it.
There are SO many things to love about this book:
•The magic system is almost philosophical in nature, which can be a little confusing to my brain, but fascinating nonetheless.
•The presentation of gender. We have gender shifters (who have lived so many previous lives that their energy doesn’t feel a need to settle on one particular gender), a theory that those with no gender were reincarnated from a FUTURE when gender is an “infinite energy manifested into physical bodies”, those who currently feel uncomfortable with their current manifestation of gender who likely lived a majority of their past lives with that specific gender identity, and projections of gender so those projecting are always sharing the sense and feel of themselves as the gender they choose.
•The theory of death - lives are only illusions that energy forms. Energy leaves the body upon death on Earth and returns to Source to figure out its next venture, living thousands of lives.
•We see characters with higher maturity levels than Ash - seeing how they pull conversations from Ash to keep miscommunications from occurring. They break down the assumptions that Ash harbors about them and others. Bringing into focus Ash’s biases. They demonstrate to Ash that people can have deep feelings, the same feelings that Ash has, without showing it in their actions or on their faces. The assumptions that Ash has of others is because they do not meet his own personal demonstrations of said thoughts and feelings.
•A commentary on elitism and the ruling upper class whose privilege allows for access and control. Though Ash is arrogant that he can practice alchemy without having a “proper” education all while feeling inferior.
It’s easy to forget how much (or little) time has elapsed from the start to the end of the book (really only roughly one month). And I can see how it could be difficult to wrap our minds around how the MCs could fall in love after only two weeks of knowing each other. But we have to remember that alchemy is a powerful tool that really helped build their relationships quickly between sharing memories mentally and feeling energies. I can imagine that creates a MUCH stronger bond than being in a relationship for months or even years.
The beginning and ending of the book were very profound and philosophical. I wish this would have bled more into the middle of the book and is the only reason I am giving it 4.5 stars instead of 5. I feel like the meat of the book felt slightly disconnected from the very strong introduction and the very strong ending.
But I truly loved this book so much and cannot wait to purchase it when it’s released.
I loved the idea of alchemists as main characters, it does a great job in keeping me interested and was unique concept overall. Kacen Callender has a great writing style and is able to create great characters. I enjoyed everything through this adventure and look forward to more.
"Infinity Alchemist" by Kacen Callender is a spellbinding young adult fantasy novel that weaves together magic, adventure, and unexpected love in a richly imagined world. Set in a society where practicing alchemy is restricted to an elite few, the story follows Ash Woods, who takes on a secret role as a groundskeeper at the Lancaster College of Alchemic Science after being rejected as a student. When Ash's alchemical talents are discovered by Ramsay Thorne, an apprentice, instead of reporting him, Ramsay proposes a daring alliance. Together, they embark on a quest to find the legendary Book of Source, a text of immense power.
Kacen Callender's storytelling prowess shines as they skillfully craft a narrative filled with intricate world-building and diverse, vibrant characters. Ash and Ramsay's dynamic, evolving relationship forms the heart of the story, highlighting themes of trust, identity, and self-discovery. The inclusion of trans, queer, and polyamorous characters of color adds depth and authenticity to the narrative, creating a much-needed representation in the fantasy genre.
The world of "Infinity Alchemist" is both enchanting and perilous, with a captivating blend of magic and mystery that keeps readers engaged from beginning to end. As Ash and Ramsay navigate a treacherous landscape filled with powerful adversaries and unexpected challenges, the novel explores themes of power, privilege, and the lengths to which individuals will go to secure it.
Kacen Callender's prose is beautifully crafted, drawing readers into the vivid landscapes of New Anglia and immersing them in the characters' emotions and struggles. "Infinity Alchemist" is a triumph in young adult fantasy, combining a compelling plot, diverse representation, and thought-provoking themes to create a novel that will resonate with readers of all backgrounds.
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest, spoiler- free review!
Themes: Love, Social Class, Magic
Representation: Trans, Genderfluid, Polyamory, LGBTQ+, POC
Content Warnings: Death, violence, classism
Premise: Ash Woods wants to get a license to practice alchemy. When Ramsay catches Ash practicing illegal alchemy, she decides to teach him if he helps her find the Book of Source. But along the way, they discover dangerous secrets and their feelings for each other grow.
Generally, I try to do book reviews objectively and measure things objectively in my book reviews. Thus, my ratings for books tend to be higher when I do the ARC reviews. Because there are certain books that I might not like, but I think, objectively, that it is a well-written book. However, obviously, my personal feelings do get in the way. So my book reviews now end up being 50% influenced by personal opinions, and 50% objective.
Thus, I am now going to introduce a new category for my book reviews: personal comments and rating. I am also going to rename the “style” category as “other” because “style” sounds weird and doesn’t really cover everything. So I will rename it to “other” which covers mostly “themes,” “diction,” stylistic choices, and other things. Things like if the book has a map or a playlist or cool chapter names or whatever.
Anyhow, now that we get this out of the way, I’ll leave some personal comments:
One, although I enjoyed the book, I feel like I didn’t “absorb” the book as much as I wanted to due to life happening. (I had a job to attend to, university applications to prepare, IB to conquer, and friendships to foster.)
BUT two, I DID like the book. I liked the representation of the characters. I liked how the author introduced the characters and represented queer characters and characters that are POC in a “natural” way. I also liked the plot as a whole and enjoyed the world that the author built. However, I wished some parts of the plot was more “fleshed out” and that the author spent a bit more time on introducing the world that they built.
But overall, 4 stars for my personal rating.
I thought that each of the characters were well-developed and unique. Plus, the cast is quite diverse. The main character Ash is trans. Ramsay is genderfluid (I will be referring to Ramsay as she/her in this review because in the synopsis, the author referred to Ramsay using she/her pronouns; the reviews that I’ve read also referred to Ramsay as she/her since that’s what she identified as at the end of the book). And most of the characters are people of colour (as stated in the blurb).
I think that the author does a good job of explaining and introducing and representing these characters in a natural and not “forced” way.
For the main character Ash, we understand him as a character that wants to learn alchemy. For Ramsay, we know her as snarky and smart and wanting to defy expectations. We don’t meet the other characters until a bit later. But Callum is written as a sweet character that is chained to his familial expectations. And even the villains (Ash’s father) have their own backstories.
Overall, I liked how the author spent time building backstories for each of the characters, even if they might be more minor characters. I also liked that everyone’s personality is unique and distinct. And because the characters are well-developed and have distinct personalities, this makes the book better.
As for the romantic aspect, I think that the characters have chemistry and care about each other. I think that the author does a good job of writing polyamory, with consent, explaining feelings of jealousy, and writing it, again, in a positive and “natural” way. However, I do feel like the author could do more “showing not telling” with the characters in regards to their romantic attraction to each other. Which would help boost their chemistry even more!
Thus, 4.8 stars.
I did some research and I found out that not all stories follow the “plot mountain” which is something that I’ve used A LOT to help me review the plot section of my book reviews. However, not all stories follow this. (Which is true.) In a lot of the books I’ve read, there is an established exposition and rising action. However, it can be tricky identifying the climax and falling action. Sometimes, there is no denouement or resolution in a book. So, I’ve just decided to do three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the end.
Beginning: Where generally, things are introduced and explained. From the premise or blurb or synopsis (whatever you want to call it): everything before and during the event in which Ash meets Ramsay.
In terms of the beginning, I think the author generally does a decent job of introducing the characters and the plot and the world. We are quickly acquainted with Ash and Ramsay and their wants and needs and goals. We are also introduced to the magic system and the world. However, at certain points, especially at the beginning, it could be difficult to follow the world and the characters. And also, not all the characters are specifically introduced at the very beginning.
Middle: Where most of the story takes place and action occurs. From the premise: Everything after and before the resolution of this book.
I think that the middle of the book is filled with a decent amount of action. It has its slow parts and action-filled scenes. And (without spoiling anything), there are enough twists and turns and unexpected portions to keep you reading the book.
End: The last 10-25% of the book. Where, basically, things are set to finish. Usually, there is a resolution. But sometimes, the book just “ends.” In that case, it is just mainly the events just before “the end” and “the end” itself. Since this book DOES in fact have a resolution, “the end” is some of the events leading up to the resolution of the book and the resolution itself.
I think that the end of the book is written well. Personally, I think, in general, it is better to have a resolution in your book (unless it’s part of a series or something). This is because it can be difficult to pull off writing a book that cuts just after the “climax” or even the “falling action” as there are so many things unanswered. And I think that having a resolution definitely helps this book (especially since it’s a standalone YA fantasy) and I think that the author effectively “tied up all the loose threads” in the book, as I had no unanswered questions after finishing it. Which can be satisfying.
So the overall plot rating is 4.7.
I’ll probably talk more about the diction and tense in this book rather than the themes are representation….
Anyways, for themes and representations: the themes are introduced more subtly. The theme of magic is blatant because, well, the book is fantasy. Also, I’m not sure it counts as a theme, really. The theme of “class” and “privilege” is subtly mentioned in Ash’s retorts. And the theme of “love” is tied in with the representation of a polyamorous relationship, which I’ve already touched base on in my “character” section of my book review.
Now, moving on, the book also has humour in it. Which is seen in the character’s quip and banter.
And finally, the book is written in third-person omniscient point of view and in past tense. I think third-person omniscience is difficult to pull off, especially if one is not switching from character to character every chapter, or does not establish a basis for the switching between the points of views. Thus, while reading this book, it took a while for me to get used to the switch in the point-of-view, and this even took me out of the story at times. I can totally see why this tense is used (for plot reasons) but sometimes feel that the switch between tense can be stiff. As for the book being in past tense, I can say that it is the “easier” and “safer” tense to write in (compared to present tense). So the tense doesn’t have a lot of effect on the story.
Therefore, 4.5 stars.
NOTE: RIP me for always making my book reviews so darn long XD
Personal Rating: 4/5
Final Rating: 4.5/5
Date Read: August 21st, 2023
Date Reviewed: August 21st, 2023
Infinity Alchemist was the perfect blend of fantasy and romance, with wonderful writing, world building, and main characters. I'm not one for romance, but the characters in this book, Ash, Ramsay, and Callum, felt so real and were well flushed out. The last fifty pages also had me on my toes, genuinely nervous to watch the fates of the main characters play out. This was an unbelievable read, Kacen Callender really knows what they're doing.
Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Publishing Group for the e-ARC in exchange of an honest review.
Rep: trans MC, genderfluid MC, polyamorous romance, queer people of color
CW/TW: sexual content, classism, bullying, gender dysphoria, death, death of a parent, blood, violence, injury/injury detail, murder, attempted murder, mass murder, hanging, torture
Infinity Alchemist is Kacen Callender’s YA fantasy debut, and it follows Ash Woods, a young man learning alchemy in secret because it is illegal for him to practice without a license. One day, his curiosity gets the best of him and he ends up being coerced into assisting Ramsay, a brilliant apprentice, in her search for the Book of Source.
I loved this book. The story was good, the characters were really interesting and the romance was lovely. It was nice getting to know Ash, Ramsay, and Callum throughout the book. They each have their own struggles and flaws, and I liked seeing their journey and character development. My favorite character was Callum. He had the most evident character growth and he was also just so sweet.
The poly rep was great. I found each of their relationships unique. It might not have started that way, but their moments with each other were filled with so much tenderness. There was also amazing communication. Alchemy played a key role in these characters’ relationships. I feel like it fast-tracked their bonds with one another, which is why I’m not mad at how fast they grew to feel love.
The worldbuilding was decent. I found the magic system interesting, and I also liked how they depicted the gender identity of characters.
My biggest critique of the book was the formatting. The first chapter read more as prologue than a first chapter. It was just one page, and it was in Ramsay’s POV. At first, i thought this meant that the book would sort of evenly jump between Ash, Ramsay, and Callum, but it didn’t. Most of the book is Ash, but there are small snippets of Ramsay and Callum, along with some other people’s POVs that I thought were unnecessary. The inconsistent placement of them confused me and took me out the reading. Especially, because there was no immediate indication that we weren’t following Ash. A missed opportunity from the author in regards to this was deciding not to showcase Ramsay’s POV more. Out of three, Ramsay’s character was the most closed off and there is a considerable amount of time in the book in which we don’t see her, so she could have benefited from having her POV shown more. I liked her character, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like I would’ve appreciated her and her growth a lot more, if the author had done this.
After I finished the book, I checked to see if this was going to be a series. I only found one article that called this the first part in a duology, so I’m hopeful that we’ll get to see more. If we don’t, that’s okay. I was pleased with the ending. It was a bit rushed but mostly everything was resolved. I absolutely do recommend this book. It was a fascinating story with amazing queer rep. Five stars. Can’t wait for it to come out.
Note: Ramsay is genderfluid. In the book, Ramsay’s rule of thumb for people is to refer to her as the gender she identified with the last time they saw her. That is why I used she/her pronouns in this review, because that’s what she was identifying as at the end of the book.