The Scarlet Alchemist by

Kylie Lee Baker

Published by Hodder & Stoughton

THIS brand new novel from the author of another dark young adult fantasy, The Keeper Of Night, is the first in a two-book series which will make the second instalment near impossible to wait for.

While many have long dismissed ideas of something similar to magic existing, this was not yet the case many years ago in Tang Dynasty China.

People once worked tirelessly in attempts to harness the elements of the natural world through alchemy in order to disrupt the natural order and bring about immortality.

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The Scarlet Alchemist is a bold twist on this history and viscerally immerses the reader in a version of events in which this worked.

What would life have been like had the power to extend it been found, how might this be distributed and where would the true powers lie?

In answering these questions, Baker refuses to create any kind of utopia, drawing skilfully and authentically instead on the issues of race, gender and class divisions we will all recognise.

Zilan’s only option is perfection. Her Celtic alchemist father arrived in China to study their developments – but after falling in love with her mother, he later disappears on the day of her death.

With alchemy and mystery in her blood, Zilan struggles with what family means as a bi-racial orphan, relying on cousins Wenshu and Yufei like siblings.

While by day the three of them work together in her aunt and uncle’s shop, by night Zilan resurrects the dead for ever-increasing prices to keep their struggling home afloat.

Though they keep this secret, they long for escape, and a more legitimate and stable income, but the only way to achieve this is the taxing and even dangerous exams commoners may take to prove themselves worthy of work in the capital.

Zilan knows she is a talented enough alchemist to fight and scratch her way through the tough and brutal competition, but will she want it when she gets there?

With every odd stacked against her, whether from her roots in poverty, her mixed heritage or being underestimated due to her gender, she makes an underdog any reader would hope for.

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Caught up in political games, Zilan is exposed to the gritty truth of the glittering capital of beautiful people extending their lives as long as they can, with no care for those starving. It is these very people for whom she must use her extraordinary talents in alchemy, allowed finally to practice the extent of her powers and test boundaries.

The sumptuously dark and vicious twists of this story bound by the magic of life, blood and familial love will have any young fantasy fan hooked in an instant.

Kylie Lee Baker is a master of the world-building skills that can make historical fiction feel like stepping into a nightmare and a dream at once, with an unforgettably stubborn protagonist you’ll want to follow until the end.