Friday, 19 August 2011

Review: Brimstone by Alan Skinner + Giveaway

Brimstone (Earth, Air, Fire and Water #1) by Alan Skinner
Publisher: Sibling Press
Released: October 4th 2010
My Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

At the age of 14, Jenny Swift is torn from her home deep in the forest to become apprenticed to the master alchemist Richard Antrobus. Jenny's mother was a healer from the East who has taught her well and from whom she inherits her exotic looks. But this difference means that she faces suspicion and distrust as she is drawn into a plot to throw the world into chaos. Not only does Jenny have to fight to stay alive amid the treachery and intrigue that surrounds the court of the Duke, but she finds her friendships and loyalties tested to the full. Forced to seek the key to the greatest secrets of the alchemists, Jenny discovers the power that lies within her - skills which could make her the greatest alchemist of any age. (from Goodreads)

Brimstone is an intriguing and original story, with a premise that stands out from many other young adult novels.  It is the tale of fourteen-year-old Jenny Swift, who is forced to leave her father and her sick mother in order to become the new apprentice of Master Richard Antrobus, a renowned alchemist. At first, Jenny resents her apprenticeship and has no interest in becoming an alchemist In Vale, and wished to return home and become a healer like her mother. Living a sheltered life with her parents has left her unprepared for the hard, suspicious world she is thrown in to – she is labelled as an “outsider” because of her skin and her appearance, and also because she is female – a rarity among apprentices. Soon however, Jenny is pulled into danger that threatens to harm many people, and Jenny must use her great skill and natural abilities to protect those she cares for.

The first thing I have to say about Brimstone is do not let the cover put you off. Yes, okay, we can all agree it is not the best of covers, but it’s what’s inside that counts, and you’d be missing out if you skipped over this one. While I found the story slow to start, it becomes much better-paced when Jenny starts to get settled in Vale. While the book is very plot-driven, and so perhaps lacks completely developed characters, I really like the main character Jenny. She coped with everything that was thrown at her really well in my opinion, and kept a cool head even in dangerous situations. She was also very smart, and could piece together the puzzle to work out what was going on – she was strong-willed and refused to go down without a fight. She was a great main character and really made the stay enjoyable.

I also liked Frida and Emily, Jenny’s friends, and I liked it when they worked together – it showed a bit of girl power, which was great in an environment where everyone was judged by gender, race and rank. I liked Emily especially, because she was fun and lively and added humour to the story.

There were a lot of twists and turns in Brimstone – there was a really unexpected one at the end that shocked me and made me feel really sorry for the people involved. There was quite a lot of action going on, and I particularly enjoyed the scene between Jenny and Nate (a man looking for a certain object, which Jenny had); Jenny had to think really quickly and had to be strong in order to get out of the dangerous situation she was in, and I found it exciting to read about.

While there is going to be a sequel to Brimstone, you can rest assured that there is no huge cliffhanger to frustrate you – most things are wrapped up, with a few loose ends to be continued in the next book, and the ending leaves you with a satisfied feeling.

The only problem I had with Brimstone was that I felt some parts were perhaps a little too descriptive, and while I felt I could really picture what was going on, I did find myself skimming over a few paragraphs and then having to re-read them, which sort of jumbled the story for me.

Overall, Brimstone was a fresh, thrilling read, and while it’s not fantasy, I think it would appeal to fans of that genre, as well as those interested in alchemy.
Giveaway time! I have an extra copy of this book to give away - if you'd like to enter to win, just leave a comment with your email address. There's no official end date, but I'll pick the winner some time in September. You must be 13 or older to enter. UK only. Good luck!


  1. Great review! I should be getting this book soon from the publisher . . . so I'm looking forward to reading this!

  2. Never heard of this one before, but it doesn't sound like something I'd pick up.. Too much description usually takes a toll on me, and I end up putting the book aside. Thanks for the review, Liz!

    (I'm not entering by the way) :D

  3. Great review, Liz. I actually like the cover and while I think this one seems interesting, I'm not sure if I'm up for a really descriptive book right now. I might add this one to my wishlist though just so I don't forget about it.

  4. This one sounds pretty unique. I love the idea of alchemy in a book. =) Thanks for the review!

  5. I agree the cover is a little bit off putting and would kind of make me walk past it. But I am glad to hear it is a good unique story. Great review :)

  6. Alright, so yes this is probably a book I might have skipped over based on the cover alone. So I'm happy I read your review, because it sounds really good!! I LOVE being surprised in books. It's disappointing when you can predict the outcome, so I love when there are unexpected shocks. Great review Liz, very intrigued by this now!

  7. Cover makes the book look intersting

  8. the cover does look a bit Mills&Boon ish but the story sounds really good, I think my daughter would like it a lot. Reminds me a bit of a book called the Alchemist's cat.

  9. I've read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho so would love to read this book as a follow up. Sounds similar.


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