Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: Seers Stone
SERIES: Hidden Alchemy #1
AUTHOR: Holly Evans
PUBLISHER: Chaos Fox
LENGTH: 182 pages
RELEASE DATE: September 26, 2017
My name’s Kaitlyn Felis, and I’m a treasure-hunting alchemist.
I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to work for a mysterious elf called Fein Thyrin. Not only did he give me my dream alchemy lab, one that came with an assistant who’d be the end of me (in the best possible way), he’s also hired me as his personal treasure-hunter. To say I was excited is a drastic understatement.
First on my treasure-hunting list? The Seers Stone – it’s a thing of legends, and I’m going to be the first hunter to get my hands on it.
A fast-paced treasure hunt through several countries, with magical beings of all shapes and sizes, all centered around a kick-ass bisexual heroine who craves a life of adventure.
Sounds awesome, right?
Yes, yes it does.
Which makes the actual story containing all those elements but with none of the emotion, heart, plotting, world-building, or character depth that would make it worth reading all the more disappointing.
At its core, Seers Stone has a good idea. Kaitlyn Felis is an alchemist who craves being on the road, discovering things, “rescuing” magical artifacts. Which makes her a great candidate for her new boss, a rather mysterious elf named Fein Thyrin, to send out in search of the aforementioned Seers Stone. Fein teams her up with several of his other employees and sends them off to find the stone. It is a pretty basic, but good, setup for an adventure story.
The problem is that we are never really given a reason why Fein wants the stone. We are never even sure if Fein is a good guy in the grand scheme of things. And I’ll be honest, I was never quite sure why he and everyone in the world seemed to suddenly want the stone. So while Kaitlyn and her merry band are out there searching for it and running into other treasure hunters, I was not, for the most part, even sure if I should be on her side. Even at the end we never got a clue why Fein wanted the stone. The stone, it seems, is basically just a pointless object for our heroine to chase around so there can be a story. The only time we are even given the slightest motivation to care about whose hands the stone ends up in, is near the end where they find out that the person in current possession of the stone is a massive dick. Not that the asshole plays a role in the story except for maybe a scene or two. For nearly two-thirds of this story I couldn’t give any fewer fucks about who found this stone. And even at the end I was only pushed to choose sides by a thinly constructed Bad Guy who was forgotten two seconds after his scene ended.
Which was a problem unfortunately echoed in the heroine herself.
There were times while reading this that I actually forgot the name of the main character. I’ll be the first to admit that I am bad at remembering names for all the various characters in a book, but I am usually able to at the very least remember the main characters. But even besides that fact (because who know, maybe I’m just having a bad brain week) if you were to write a brief character description of Kaitlyn and hold it up next to a definition of a “Mary Sue” you could barely spot the differences. And it is not that she is these things (practically perfect in every way) it is that is all she is. She doesn’t grow, change, adapt, or interspect/examine at all.
And it was bugging me so much that I actually had to stop reading and genuinely question myself on whether I was only responding negatively, to the claims of how “awesome” and self-assured (bordering on self-obsession) she was, simply because she was a woman. And we as a culture and society do tend to judge women more harshly on things seen as positives in a man. But as I started to identify the things that were bugging me I couldn’t say that any of them would annoy even a little bit less if done or personified by a man.
Especially in regards to how I think sex was handled in this book.
I want to say straight up that I kinda like that this is a bisexual character that flirts/engages in sexual acts with both women and men in the story. And I don’t even mind that this book has her (kinda) ending up with a man in the end (I’m honestly not sure what their relationship dynamic is, so the ending was a bit confusing on this respect). We don’t get many books here on the blog that choose to do that and it was cool to see. This, and the fact that I kinda like Kaitlyn’s pet whisp, are why this didn’t fall completely to one star.
However, while I liked the direction that this book attempted to take in the various relationships, it fell down completely on making even a single one of them worth caring about. It sets up Kaitlyn and her assistant as your typical MC pairing in the first couple chapters–so much so I could swear you could see them surrounded by soft-focus lighting and violin music–but that gets dropped after they spend one night together. It is also followed by this weird scene where Kaitlyn realizing that her assistant no longer wants into her pants, and so suddenly becomes worried (with no evidence) that the assistant can’t do her job anymore and might need to be replaced (not that she even once before even bothered to consider the talents/work ethic of said assistant). Kaitlyn then bangs a couple people off screen, which has no point to the story other than to make sure you know that she can get all the ass she wants, I guess. She then goes on to flirt with everything that has a pulse in this book (even if they seem to be in committed relationships) all the while everything with a pulse seems to treat her like catnip for no apparent reason. Then, with about a third of the book left, the other “real” love interest shows up: Logan. Yay? I mean, I don’t know anything about him, don’t care for him at all–because I haven’t been given much info about him other than they are long-time fuck-buddies–but suddenly we are supposed to be all swoony over this dude?
A dude who, in my view at least, magically sexually assaults a another guy just to get information. But he is an Incubus (though that information just kinda pops up out of nowhere) and I guess it is ok for them to force sexual urges and emotions onto people for personal gain. Which ok, if the book says so, but I’m not exactly cheering for this guy to come out on top of anything now.
And I would have lived with the lack of romance if the book wanted to focus on the adventure, but there is absolutely nothing there to be exited about. It basically a continual repetition of “go here, fight something, go to next point.” There is no mystery, nothing to uncover or solve; it is just a list of check points. And for all the claims of how awesome she is, most if not all of the action scenes in this book could have easily been handled/avoided if she was not involved. I honestly do no know what she added to this part of the story. For heaven’s sake, Logan has to rescue her at one point by literary throwing her over his shoulder. I think just about anyone else in her group could have taken her place and it would been the exact same story. And what little she does add is in magical items…that she could have easily just given them at the start of the story. To be honest, this kinda reads like a secondary (or even tertiary) character knocked out the protagonist, shoved them in a closet, and decided to take their place in the book. There is nothing in the more action-centric parts that demands that this must be her story. Which is a bit of a problem when you spend half your book proclaiming how “awesome” your character is at doing her job.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. But after it was done the only good things I could say were that it has a pretty cover, the sexual dynamics were interesting, and I really loved the voiceless floating ball of light she has as a pet. That is not enough for me. The world building in this is slap-dash and feels like it is trying copy better done stories but with only a fraction of the care. The characters have no depth and make no attempts to dig even an inch deeper. The action had little incentive, no point, and repetitive set pieces. And at the end of the day I just don’t care about any of it, because it didn’t seem to bothered if I did so or not.