Book Review: The Alchemist War by John Seven, Craig Phillips

The Alchemist War is the first book in the middle grade series the Time-Tripping Faradays written by John Seven and illustrated by Craig Phillips. A wager involving Hannibal’s elephants and a mouse lands the Faradays in hot water with their employer, the Cosmos Institute. They are punished with a trip to 1648 Prague to educate Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III about fashions in footwear. Teenage siblings Dawkins and Hypatia fall in with alchemist Jan Richthausen. Somebody is meddling with technology that is beyond even the Faradays. Dawk and Hype traipse along on a multi-century chase that loops back around to close with tantalizing hints of adventures to come.

The Alchemist War seems to have less to do with the actual alchemists and much more about setting up an exciting and plausible set of adventures for the Faraday family. I loved the characters, and the technology, that sets the stage for the story. Dawk and Hype are well done, as are their slightly too trusting parents and the electronic guardian that seems eager to lead them into adventure and allow them some freedom to explore which might not be the best idea since they are on probation due to Hawk's previous adventure. The set up with the alchemist is good, as is the very plausible connection of personalities, technology, and rules that make the time travel that the entire series hinges on work. I think the history and factual bits woven into the story just might capture the attention of some readers and encourage further research.  Since I had a galley version, I did have a few editing issues, certain letters seemed to be missing regularly through out the copy, but I am going to assume (I know, usually a bad idea) that those were fixed in the final edits. All in all, and fun and interesting read that should capture the attention of many readers.

The Alchemist War was a well done and intriguing start to a new series. I think that it will be well received, particularly by those that grew up reading books like the Magic Tree House series when facts about history and science are delivered in adventure and excitement. I look forward to seeing just where Dawk, Hype, and their family end up next.


About the Author:
John Seven grew up in the 1970s, when science fiction movies and TV shows were cheap and fun. His favorite shows were The Starlost, Land of the Lost, and Return to the Planet of the Apes, and he loved time travel most of all. John collaborated with his wife, illustrator Jana Christy, on the comic book Very Vicky and a number of children’s books, including the multi-award-winning The Ocean Story, A Year With Friends, A Rule Is To Break: A Child’s Guide To Anarchy, and Happy Punks 1-2-3. John was born in Savannah, GA, and currently lives in North Adams, MA, with his wife and their twin sons, Harry and Hugo, where they all watch a lot of Doctor Who and Lost together.

About the Illustrator:
Craig Phillips is an award winning illustrator who has been providing illustrations to the publishing and advertising industries in the United States, Australia, and Europe for over a decade. He has created book jackets and interior art for Random House, Penguin, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, TOR Books, Wizards Of The Coast, Oxford University Press, and many more. His work has been included in many art annuals, as well as national and international exhibitions.
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