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Soul Stealer: The Alchemist's Son Part II    by Martin Booth order for
Soul Stealer
by Martin Booth
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Soul Stealer follows Doctor Illuminatus as the conclusion to The Alchemist's Son duo. The first book introduced a brother and sister, Pip and Tim Ledger, after their family moved into the old English manor house of Rawne Barton. Existing in a kind of hibernation in the house was Sebastian Rawne, son of a great alchemist, whose enemies engineered his burning at the stake centuries before. In their summer holidays, Pip and Tim shared a perilous adventure with Sebastian and defeated an evil alchemist in his attempt to create a homunculus.

Now, they're apprehensive about their first day in a new school, a secondary school too (note that non-British readers will have to translate educational terms like prefect into their own contexts). Sebastian gives Pip a chain and pendant that once belonged to Queen Joan (wife of Henry IV) to warn her of the presence of evil. It turns out that she needs it, as their science (and homeroom) teacher, Mr. Yoland, is one of the bad guys and their fellow student, Scrotton, is a 'wodwo' and the alchemist's 6,000-year-old familiar. The trio decide that Sebastian must attend school (to get close to the villains), leading to many amusing verbal exchanges as this serious boy, who has lived with too much responsibility as he watched the centuries pass by, learns to 'Let it all hang out.'

Action, adventures, and close calls for each of the threesome follow as they work hard to discover - and foil - Yoland's nefarious plans. It all culminates in an exciting crescendo at the Jasper Point nuclear power station. This series does a nice job of mixing modern technology (Tim uses the Internet adroitly) with ancient alchemy, a different approach from that in other YA fantasy series. Though I didn't find Soul Stealer as absorbing as Doctor Illuminatus, it's a worthy sequel and a good read.

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