#98. The Alchemist's Dream

The Alchemist's Dream by John Wilson

Pages: 248
Finished: Oct. 20, 2007
Reason for Reading: this book is on the shortlist for the Governor General's Award for Children's Literature, it also qualifies for the Canadian Book Challenge
First Published: 2007
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

First Sentence:

Robert Bylot was waiting for death.

Comments: A fresh, intriguing hypothesis to the solution of the mystery surrounding Henry Hudson's last fatal voyage. This is a story of Henry Hudson but much more so a story of Robert Bylot, an obscure explorer, and John Dee, a geographer and occultist. The tale of how these three people's lives may have intertwined is fascinating. The book does start off very slow, there is a heavy hand of history and geography to set the scene which borders on being pedantic. I think the reader would have been better served with an illustrated map on the endpapers and really am dismayed that one wasn't included. However, the author manages to provoke our interest in the characters enough until the mid-point of the novel where the plot line picks up and the reading flows much easier. This is a Young Adult novel and suitable for the upper age range as this realistic portrait of life on the high-seas includes very graphic and gory battle scenes. Overall, this is a fascinating topic and a glimpse into an era where the boundaries between science and magic were blurry. Recommended.


  1. Glad to see you're representing Young Adult books in the challenge. Great opening sentence too!

    Another great book about early Arctic explorers is Pierre Berton's The Arctic Grail.

  2. Thanks John, I've read quite a bit of Berton but not that one.


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