Review of THE ALCHEMIST'S DOOR by Lisa GoldsteinTOR, August 2002
Scientist and astrologer John Dee and his family have left the court of Queen Elizabeth fleeing from a demon. The demon pursues them, however, and Dee finds himself in Prague where the mad Emperor demands delivery of the 36th righteous man--the man who's death will lead to the destruction of the world order and an opportunity for a man or demon to reshape the universe. Together with the Rabbi Judah Loew, legendary creator of the golem, Dee searches for the 36th righteous man--and for a way to stop the forces of evil that threaten to overrun Europe. Because the doorway between the universes stands open and demons have begun to make their way back into our world.
Author Lisa Goldstein delivers a deft mixture of history and fantasy. Her writing is clear and keeps the pages turning. I was distracted, however by some of the logic holes. Why, for example, didn't Emperor Rudolf simply kill everyone on his list rather than engage Dee and Loew to find the one man? He certainly didn't show much respect for life. What, exactly, was the whole Erzsebet thing about--was it really only to bring in old Hungarian legends? And what happened to the second demon--the one that could physically manifest itself and that served Kelley? Finally, the ultimate battle seemed anticlimactic and I was left wondering whether Dee really sacrificed much, really made a heroic gesture. Attempting to close to door between the universes would have been a more powerful symbol if Dee had been able to truly use the magics that came through the gateway. Instead, his sacrifice wasn't particularly large, reducing the power of the novel.
THE ALCHEMIST'S DOOR is a pleasant read with its setting in the historically significant period of Elizabeth I, its use of historic characters in alternate history settings, and its travels through the mystical world of Eastern Europe at a time when the Turks were still capable of threatening all of Christendom and when Jews were forced into ghettos.
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