Zilan dreams of becoming a royal alchemist, of providing for her family by making alchemical gold and gems for the wealthy to eat in order to stay young forever. But for now, she’s trapped in her impoverished village in southern China, practicing an illegal form of alchemy to keep food on the table—resurrecting the dead, for a price.

When Zilan finally has the chance to complete her imperial exams, she ventures to the capital to compete against the best alchemists in the country in tasks she’ll be lucky to survive, let alone pass. On top of that, her reputation for raising the dead has followed her to the capital, and the Crown Prince himself seeks out her help, suspecting a coming assassination attempt.

The more Zilan succeeds in her alchemy, the more she gets caught in the dangerous political games of the royal family. There are monsters lurking within the palace walls, and it’s only a matter of time before they—and secrets of Zilan’s past—catch up with her.


“From now on you will be known as the Scarlet Alchemist.”

4,5 stars

What a good surprise that book was!

The plot in a nutshell: Zilan is orphaned, born from a Chinese mother and a Scotie father. She lives with her poor uncle and aunt with her beloved cousins  Yufei and Wenshu.

All three want to go to the capital, her cousins in the hope to join the administration and Zilan to become a royal alchemist.

The odds are not in their favor, being poor and having to study alone. Zilan will face countless unfair treatments as well as mortal imperial exams.

Her reputation as practicing forbidden alchemy in raising the dead precedes her and the crown prince is looking to hire her service as he fears an assassination.

The more Zilan advances in the exams, the more she realizes all the dangers lurking at the imperial court. It’s literally “ beware what you wish for”.

I loved so many things in that story!

-the stone magic (alchemy). It’s a new kind of magic for me.

the underdog trying to win the big prize (become a royal alchemist). Zilan is extremely driven!

 “I would not let a coward like Zheng Sili stand beside the Moon Alchemist in my place. I would surpass my father’s skills and leave this palace as a royal alchemist, just as I’d told the prince all those months ago. I would stay here with my family.”

Whatever the difficulty, she rises to the occasion.

the family dynamic and love (cousins who feel like siblings).

Even if sometimes Zilan envied her cousins (“Why did she deserve parents and beauty and a chance at her dreams while I got nothing at all?”) she loved them above anything else and needed their friendship. These three had each other’s back and it gave me all the warm feelings.

the role reversal with the female MC being all tough and the prince feeling more like a delicate flower. Zilan is not a romantic. She is strong and determined, driven by her ambition. Li Hong has a soft heart and is easily intimidated by his mother. He loves ducks, his sisters and we can feel his romantic soul.

“ I just wanted to be chosen,” the prince said quietly. “But those girls didn’t have a choice, not really. I want to be chosen freely, or not at all.”

the plot twists (a really big one I never saw coming and then another big one!!!). Truly the author surprised me big time!

the historical setting (loosely inspired on China’s history)

-that we’ll get a sequel and I can’t wait!!

The Scarlet Alchemist is an historical fantasy mixing a strong female character with big dreams and the cruelty of people in power and what they’d do to keep that power.

I was surprised in the best way and loved that story way much than what I had expected.

Thanks for reading.


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