“Claim?”ARC, subject to change
The word escaped, a low hiss through my violently clenched jaw.
“What claim do any of you have on me?”
(Thank you to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for the review copy)
Content Warning: This book contains talk of madness throughout, a moment of self-harm during madness, and a single implied threat of sexual assault.
Hi, all! I’m excited to be on the blog tour for this book, showcasing a great debut! My review is mostly the same from when I first wrote it, but I really appreciate the chance to help spread the word about Cohoe’s story with my honest thoughts about how it affected me!
First, I do have to give my compliments to the cover designer of this book. It really stuck out to me, and it’s a large reason I decided to read this.
Thea’s mother is a famous alchemist who made imbibed armor for the King of France. Now, as France faces rebellion, English born Thea and her mother must flee just as her mother gets impossibly close to finishing the legendary Philosopher’s stone. Promising to grant health, immortality, and wealth to the one who finishes it, the stone is the end goal for all alchemists. The problem lies in the stone’s curse, unknown to anyone, that drives anyone who gets close to madness unless they prove themselves worthy. Thea’s mother falls into the madness like a stone into water, and Thea must travel to England to visit her (also an alchemist) father and try to finish the stone to save her mother’s life.
Now, this book is one of the most technically impressive debuts I’ve ever read, and I think it’s due largely to how adeptly I think Cohoe sticks to her themes. She clearly has something to say with this book, and it gave a life to sections where I would otherwise have been more frustrated (mainly just the pacing, which is incredibly subjective).
Non-specific book discussion below!
The theme, for me (as all books are subjective), feels to be what it means to have control over yourself, to belong to yourself instead of others. Throughout the book, Thea is claimed and not claimed by people she cares for. Claimed only as her mother’s in regards to her success in training, not claimed as a daughter by her father, claimed for her skills but not her choices, claimed as a means to an ends without thought for her desires. The way she’s pulled to and fro is almost enough to drive anyone mad without the stone’s ill effects.
“Men are always willing to believe in the stupidity of women”
The characters, almost all male, have varying levels of respect for Thea’s person-hood. The purest of them is Dominic, an apprentice of her father’s who only wants to help her be safe. When she helps him in turn his loyalty becomes ferocious, and he’s the only person in this story to not ask something of her. Everyone has a plan for Thea, a use for her, and it’s only when she gains power over them that she gets a single say in the matter.
“She discovered that I wished to belong to myself, instead of her,” I said. “And she found that unacceptable.”
The pacing suffers at times – it is a single day with so much happening without pause at one moment, to a sixteen day period passed in a chapter break (this latter bit is understandable in context, but stands out with how quickly everything with Thea’s father and his lab happens). I bring this up because it DOES exist, but I don’t really hold this against the book or the author as a debut – as I said, this is leaps and bounds ahead of a lot of fantasy debuts just in how cohesive and palatable it is. I would have preferred a little more time with Rahel, perhaps at the end, some closure there would have been nice. Just a small preference.
I really connected to Thea, I liked how much she stood on her own as a character, even in her less intelligent moments. Her internal monologue was strong, served its purpose independent of just remarking on what she saw, and being inside her head was the best part of the book. Her mother also makes a strong impression, which was a pleasant surprise. It would have been easy for a writer to stray too close to stereotypical when writing her, and Cohoe did a good job making her believable instead of cartoonish. The men, save for Valentin, all read as I expected them to – I was the tiniest bit surprised by her father, but it made sense.
“Vellacott wasn’t the first to think that likening me to my mother was the highest compliment he could give me. In fact, it had never occurred to anyone but Will to give me any other kind.”
Mild spoilers but I do really love how romance was handled in this book. I feel any other approach would have detracted from the book’s point, and as much as I am a sucker for an epic and new love story in all of my books, I respect this choice.
End of book discussion!
A Golden Fury is out now, please grab it if this sounds like something you might enjoy! Thank you again to Samantha and to Wednesday Books for first giving me an ARC for an honest review and then letting me be a part of this book tour!
Samantha Cohoe writes historically-inspired young adult fantasy. She was raised in San Luis Obispo, California, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood of beach trips, omnivorous reading, and writing stories brimming with adverbs. She currently lives in Denver with her family and divides her time among teaching Latin, mothering, writing, reading, and deleting adverbs. A Golden Fury is her debut novel. (biography from Goodreads)