In this debut SF novel, an Egyptian artifact propels a ninth-century alchemist to a strange, futuristic planet.
In 832, Al-Khidr guides an exploration team through a pyramid in Giza, Egypt. The Iraqi alchemist leads the visitors to valuables that they collect for an Islamic ruler. But Al-Khidr is more interested in such discoveries as oddly malleable glass and metals that have apparently never rusted. While trying to identify a metal orb and a glass shard, he joins the artifacts together, resulting in a glowing, surprisingly mobile sphere that knocks him unconscious. He awakens in another place, one with unknown, sophisticated technology, that he soon learns isn’t even on Earth. The glowing sphere transported him to a kingdom on planet Lyra. As far as the Lyrians are concerned, Al-Khidr’s home world is cursed. A space mission there millennia ago brought back the deadly disease Mutmut, which kills nearly every male Lyrian it infects. There’s still no cure, but Al-Khidr promises benevolent Queen Hathor that he’ll find one if he returns to Earth. Unfortunately, a growing uprising against the queen, along with the Lyrians’ fear of the “alien-human” from that wretched planet, threatens everyone. Odin’s deliberately paced tale delivers tense set pieces; even before Mutmut-phobic Lyrians prove dangerous, Al-Khidr faces off against thieving bandits in Giza. Moreover, the narrative spotlight illuminates the entire cast and includes a lengthy backstory about the largely secret Earth mission, which involved betrayal and murder. The author’s straightforward prose weaves real-life history into the narrative with panache. The story features delightful references to the origins of Egypt’s pyramids as well as Lyrians sharing names with historical figures. As this is Book 1 of a trilogy, Odin leaves some things unresolved, like Al-Khidr’s potential adversary back on Earth and Lyra’s troublesome pirates and bounty hunters, whom readers never see. Still, the frenzied ending makes tracking down Book 2 a virtual necessity.
Sharp characterization boosts this leisurely paced but engrossing SF series opener.
Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2021
Page count: 409pp
Publisher: Odin Fantasy World
Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2021
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021
The Alchemist (novel)
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