As a reader, I have always had a certain preference for what kind of books I’ve purchased and read. Throughout the years, for better or for worse, I’ve stuck with the authors I know, rarely exploring stories outside of their writings. In the last few years, because of my participation in the Monthly Writing Challenge on Twitter, I’ve come to know a bunch of authors I might not have bumped into if I hadn’t decided to give it a go. As a result, I have also been exposed to their writings, in one way or another, and I’ve found myself enjoying a whole range of books that I otherwise probably never would have.
The most recent story in this category comes from Madeleine D’Este, a long-time participant of the Monthly Writing Challenge. Throughout the last few years, I’ve followed her writing at a distance, always curious about her stories, but I never took the plunge to explore further (I wish I had now). For the last few months, I’ve had some of her stories on my Kindle account so I figured it was about time I took the time to read through them. The first one up is the novella Evangeline and the Alchemist.
Evangeline and The Alchemist is set in the 19th century Melbourne, Australia, or 1882 to be precise. The main character of the story, Evangeline, has just settled down with her long-lost father and her uncles, determined to leave her tainted past behind her, when the applecart is upset by a mysterious character that’s selling fake gold as real. These events is causing problems throughout Melbourne but also within Evangeline’s family and circle of friends. Evangeline is drawn in by the mystery and soon finds herself on a mission to solve it on her own, with the help of her friend Mei, partly to show her father that although she may be a young woman, she loves the work her inventor father does and would love to help him. She has to use the skills she acquired in her prior life to not only find the clues that help her solve the puzzle but also survive the whole ordeal.
The story, although set in the 19th century, is not what one might expect from that century. Instead, there are dirigibles, steam-powered trams and a variety of other pieces that puts the story firmly in the steampunk genre. Add a bit of magic and you have a story in an environment that is what you’d least expect it.
Evangeline and The Alchemist is a story you’ll easily finish in an hour, hour and a half. In fact, I found it hard to stop once I started so you’re likely to finish it in one sitting. That in itself speaks volumes about the story, and I found myself wishing there was more once I turned the last page.
Considering that the story is a novella, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a character and story development. What I found was a story that wastes little time with sightseeing and instead jumps right into the action while still taking the time to throw in hints about Evangeline and her background, as well as some for the supporting characters. Of course, as with any story, I would have loved to get to know her a little more but knowing that there are more stories in the series, I’m confident that will come. I also would have loved to know more about steampunk Melbourne. There are, however, enough references in the story to create an image of the environment in which Evangeline’s adventures take place (especially the smells of the streets). Still, and partly because steampunk is still a bit of a novelty for me, I would have loved to understand better how Evangeline’s world actually works. I suppose I’ll have to read the others to find out more, eh, Madeleine?
Despite the brevity of the story, there are still plenty of plot twists that will throw in the unexpected element in Evangeline’s adventures, but nothing that takes the story way off track.
Although I wasn’t sure what to expect, reading Evangeline was a delight. It was fast-paced, full of mystery and adventure. In other words, it was the perfect story for me to sit down on the couch, a cup of tea in hand and a plate of cookies beside me. I’m looking forward to diving into the next one. I just need to get the next batch of cookies ready!
Evangeline and The Alchemist is available on Amazon, as are all the subsequent stories detailing her adventures. The Kindle version is $0.99, so well worth picking up for a quick read. It’s a great story that’s well worth your time.
I would also suggest that you check out Madeleine’s podcast, Write Through The Roof, in interviews authors about their writing habits and much more. It’s quite interesting and well worth the listen. You can find it, and more, on her website: