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Dark Alchemy by Laura Bickle

Dark AlchemyA review by Nalini Haynes

Petra Dee is a geologist, pardon the pun. After a traumatic incident (her backstory unfolds later in the novel), Petra arrives in one-horse no-traffic-light town Temperance to ply her trade in nearby Yellowstone National Park while looking for her father who was last seen in the area.

Law enforcer Mike (cute nice guy) encourages Petra to carry a weapon because she’s a woman on her own staying in a caravan on an isolated property. The town’s meth heads decide Petra is fair game, prompting a hunt on her first morning there. The gun was a good idea.

Twisted calcified skeletons appear for which Petra can find no scientific explanation.

Creepy ranch-hand Gabe has Petra’s criteria for the perfect guy: he’s seemingly indestructible. I kind of see her attraction to Gabe but Ranger Mike is my kind of guy. PETRA. GET YOUR HEAD TOGETHER.

Petra goes down the rabbit hole when she discovers the metaphysical side of nature, wins friends without influencing people and acquires a ‘pet’, a coyote who is part pet, part protector and part spirit guide. Doggie fans will ADORE the coyote. I wanted Petra’s coyote to exhibit more Trickster qualities because of associated Native American mythology, but I loved its doggie qualities.

Dark Alchemy combines a gothic alchemy story (surprise!) with town politics and the Wild West as Petra acquires a cool coat (every hero needs a cool coat!) and two antique guns that she carries in a gun belt wrapped twice around her waist.

If Dark Alchemy was a movie, it’d pass the Bechdel Test and more than passes equity tests as we meet the Native American social worker and learn more about her Uncle Frankie.

Dark Alchemy was a compelling read with a satisfying conclusion promising more Petra Dee stories set around Temperance. I’m hooked.

  • Rating: full starfull starfull starfull starEmpty star 4 out of 5 stars
  • ISBN: 9780062389862
  • ISBN 10: 0062389866
  • Imprint: Harper Voyager Impulse
  • On Sale: 03/24/2015
  • List Price: 2.99 USD
  • BISAC1: FICTION / Fantasy / Contemporary
  • BISAC2: FICTION / Fantasy / Dark Fantasy
  • BISAC3: FICTION / Westerns


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Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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