It is 1666, the Year of the Beast, seen by many as the moment the Devil will appear on earth. Science is in ascendance, crowding out other systems of thought. The ancient art of alchemy is in retreat. No one has been able to make the Philosophers’ Stone for over a hundred years, but many of the best minds of the age are still in a desperate search for it. Stories vividly abound how alchemists of yore had created a powerful stone of sorcery, rejuvenating all it touches -- turning decrepit old lead into precious fresh gold. A universal medicine known to the alchemists by its true name: Red Sulphur. But the Divine Art is receding from the memory of humankind. Science is bought at a price. This saga is based on the last verified historical reports by credible witnesses about a mysterious transmutation. It follows the lives of a great alchemist and the two extraordinary women he loves: the last in the world in possession of the miraculous Red Sulphur, the source of all creative powers, they are pursued by dark forces and powerful world leaders. This is a visionary tale spanning two generations of the last days when magic was strong. It is the story of the final embers of the long gone days when the Magi could still do what we, children of Science, hold to be impossible. In sensuous ways that bring the vibrant feel of the 17th century to life, here, for the first time, is the history of this illustrious alchemist family that changed the fate of Europe and the Americas.
Bosnak debuts with a high-stakes fantastical tale set largely in the Netherlands during the late 17th century. Mundanus, an Italian alchemist, sets out on a mission to visit the venerated Dutch physician Helvetius. He brings with him the famed Philosopher’s Stone, forcing Helvetius to reconsider his skepticism of alchemy. Meanwhile, Mundanus is drawn to Helvetius’s wife, Marianne, who is herself an alchemist, and to her ailing niece, Clara. Mundanus and Marianne begin to use an alchemical compound called red sulphur in experiments, many of which have life-altering effects. He also hopes to prove himself a better physician than Helvetius by curing Clara’s lingering illness. Occasional modern colloquialisms and phrasing hinder the flow, and the atmosphere suffers as a result. However, Bosnak excels at depicting human drama, particularly the love triangle among Mundanus, Marianne, and Clara. Bosnak’s characters are three-dimensional, and the interactions among them are often thought provoking. The fantastical elements assist but never overshadow the main story, and the characters’ emotional entanglements are balanced by a complex plot with a well-realized historical setting. (BookLife)