Blog Tour - Imperfect Alchemist by Naomi Miller
Today I'm very excited to bring you guys the last stop on the Imperfect Alchemist Blog Tour, hosted by Allison and Busby.
A while ago I was asked by the lovely Lesley over at Allison and Busby if I was interested in joining this tour and after reading the premise of this book, I simply had to! Take a glimpse at this wonderful synopsis:
"Two women. One bond that will unite them across years and social divides.
England, 1575. Mary Sidney is a fourteen-year-old navigating grief and her first awareness of love and desire. Her sharp mind is less interested in the dynastic alliances and marriages that concern her father, but will she be able to forge a place for herself and her writing in the years to come?
Rose Commin, a young country girl with a surprising talent for drawing, is desperate to shrug off the slurs of witchcraft which have tarnished life at home. The opportunity to work at Wilton House, the Earl of Pembroke's Wiltshire residence, is her chance.
Defying the conventions of their time, these two women, mistress and maid, will find themselves facing the triumphs, revelations and dangers that lie ahead together."
This novel is primarily based on the life of Mary Sidney, a real historical character, that became well known for her writing skills - alongside her brother Philip - and her alchemy skills. Through her point of view, the reader gets the chance to know the life of the aristocracy within the court of Queen Elizabeth I and a glimpse into the academic elite of that time period.
It also follows the life of Rose Commin, a fictional character, which is the maid of Mary that through her perspective shows the not-so-glamorous day to day life aspects of the servants from the Tudor period. Through her mother, a healer accused of witchcraft, it is also portrayed the fear of the unknown manifested by the people of that time.
I found it particularly fascinating to read about Mary because I knew she was real - even though her actions and thoughts were drawn from imagination and probably romanticized.
One of the best points of the novel for me was how the author conveyed the quieter but extremely powerful strength from all of the female characters within the book and managed to portrait how ahead of their time they all were, even though this Avant Gard-ness was manifested into different behaviours and feelings accordingly to their status quo.
When I began reading this book I was pleasantly surprised to discover the extent of the research work done by the author to construct Mary Sidney's character and her family and friends. I was so immersed and fascinated with this aspect that it took me a lot more to finish this novel than it usually would have because I wanted to fact-check everything I was reading to discover the lines between fiction and facts and I have to say - although I'm far from being an expert - the historical contextualization seemed very well constructed and a lot of attention was given to details.
In addition to being a historical romance, this book reads a lot like a fictional biography which I really appreciated but it also means that it is a slow burner, heavily focused on character development and not so much on an action-packed storyline.
Even though I enjoyed how detailed and adorned the writing was because it translated into this romantic and almost eerie vibe that made everything feel cosy, at the same time I think that there were occasions when it was too much to process.
I also feel this could've benefited from being a little shorter since I felt like the story dragged for a while in some chapters.
I loved the references and descriptions of all sorts of art: literature, music, painting, you name it. It felt so enlightening and captivating reading about it!
I ended up really enjoying this read and I feel that it was just the right time for me to read it because allowed me to slow down and really focus on the story, forgetting everything that is going wrong with the world right now!
If you're into historical settings (particularly the Tudor era), a slow-burn narrative, dark academia cosy vibes and escapism, this one is definitely for you.
I think this has become my "read this if you're an old soul" recommendation!
Massive thanks to Leslie and the team at Allison and Busby for providing me with a review copy and invited me to take part in this tour. Last but not least, congrats to the author Naomi Miller for creating such a lovely and well-crafted story!