The Alchemy of Chaos by Marshall Ryan Maresca – Review

Cover- The Alchemy of Chaos

Published: February 2, 2016

Publisher: DAW

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 389 (Mass Market)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0


The saga of the streets of Maradaine that began in The Thorn of Dentonhill continues….

Veranix Calbert is The Thorn—the street vigilante who became a legend to the people of Maradaine, especially the gangs that run the neighborhood of Aventil. The Thorn continues to harass Willem Fenmere, the drug kingpin of the Dentonhill neighborhood. Veranix is still determined to stop Fenmere and the effitte drug trade, especially when he discovers that Fenmere is planning on using the Red Rabbits gang to bring the drug into Aventil.

But it’s also Exam Week at the University of Maradaine, where Veranix is a magic student. With his academic career—and future as a mage—riding on his performance, Veranix needs to devote himself entirely to studying and participating in a fellow student’s thesis experiments. There’s no time to go after Fenmere or the Red Rabbits.

Then a series of strange pranks begin to plague the campus, using a form of magic that Veranix doesn’t recognize. As the pranks grow increasingly deadly, it becomes clear that there’s someone with a vendetta against the university, and The Thorn may be the only one capable of stopping them. Between the prankster, the war brewing between the Aventil gangs, and the flamboyant assassins Fenmere has hired to kill him, Veranix may end up dead before the week is out. Which just might be preferable to taking his exams….

Well, well, well. Mr. Maresca has provided his readers with another dashing adventure in Maradaine and it was GREAT. He has yet to disappoint and I love how he’s writing two series at once, both set in the same city but in totally different atmospheres. I’m waiting for the characters to overlap, even if it’s just a tiny, insignificant interaction. I’m going to shriek and wave the book about in a dangerous looking manner and find someone to fangirl about it to if that moment ever comes.

Once again Veranix Calbert, magic student and masked vigilante, gets in way over his head in his fight to stop the trafficking of the drug known as effitte. This time the trouble makes its way inside of the University’s walls and Veranix is fighting a war on several fronts- the malicious “pranks” happening on campus, the Deadly Bird assassins hired by Fenmere, and encroaching effitte trade. The whole situation is made even messier by the fact that Veranix is trying to pass his exams in the midst of this trouble. The action in The Alchemy of Chaos was paced well considering there was such an abundance of it. Not everything happened in the last 50-100 pages of the book, which seems all too common in books of all genres.

This particular installment gave me these great West Side Story vibes, because we readers get a little more insight into the gangs of Maradaine. The grandstanding and bravado displayed by the members of the Rose Street Princes is super fun to read about. They get such pride out of the fact that the Thorn is on their side and the Princes are probably his biggest cheerleaders because the constables see the Thorn as a troublemaking vigilante that needs to be arrested. Veranix’s cousin Colin, who himself is a Captain in the Rose Street Princes, is trying to help out without Veranix’s identity being discovered and keep himself under the radar of the gang leaders. This really doesn’t work out so well. Veranix’s side of the story is full of excitement and dangerous activities as usual, though his friends Delmin and Kaiana don’t get quite the screen time that I had expected. They’re present when it counts and there’s so much other stuff going on that you really don’t notice, plus two minor characters are introduced that get a significant amount of focus, though I doubt they’ll appear again.

I wasn’t quite as hooked on The Alchemy of Chaos as I was when I read The Thorn of Dentonhill, which is why this installment has earned a 4.0/5.0 from me… HOWEVER, this was still an admirable addition to Maresca’s literary repertoire and I am always so excited for his new releases! Again, I do wish these came in the larger paperbacks or hardcover editions because I do enjoy them so much and like to display my favorite books. If you’re looking for a fun summer (or anytime of the year) read, then I highly recommend this series, ESPECIALLY if you are a fan of Scott Lynch or Patrick Rothfuss’s books. Do yourself a favor and try this series out!

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