Title in white on blue image of person with gold flowers and a girl holding birds in front of a window
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating:
Series: anthology


Book cover for THE ALCHEMY OF SORROW: title in gold above a girl holding gold birds in front of blue window

Here be dragons and sorcery, time travel and sorrow.

Vicious garden gnomes. A grounded phoenix rider. A new mother consumed with vengeance. A dying god. soul magic.

These stories wrestle with the experience of loss – of loved ones, of relationships, of a sense of self, of health – and forge a path to hope as characters fight their way forward.

Blurb taken from back of copy. Add to your goodreads shelves here.


This collection is all about grief in its many varieties and experiences, a way to see experiences reflected in fantasy.


I was very confused in this story. It’s written in second person and it took me a very long time to work out who was talking, and to whom. Because it’s a short story, by the time I’d worked that out, most of the story was gone and I didn’t have enough time to sink into the story with that new knowledge.

Skies on Fire

I really enjoyed this one, a story about the loss of identity and previous normal life after injury. There was so much world building packed into a handful of pages, building a world of phoenix riders and two close relationships. It is a story about mourning a past in order to build a future.

A Matter of Trust

This is the longest of the stories contained within the anthology. It is about the grief of a broken relationship, trying to move on after a marriage fails. It’s also a story about mercenaries and traitors and trying to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. It reminded me of YEAR OF THE REAPER and made me desperate to re-read that book!

A Recurrence of Jasmine

The premise of this story is great – a dying god and a slave woman forced to try and appease him, instead showing him kindness to gain perspective. There is a hint of internal politics (always a win) and history unfolding.

Twice-Domesticated Dragons

The dragons in this story hunt and eat gnomes. It was such a fun idea, a pretty modern-feeling world that happens to have pests that are a little more usual (and dangerous) than your run-of-the-mill rats and foxes.

The Witch in the Woods

This is a story about a dying baby and a mother’s attempt to save the baby, even if it costs her future. It was interesting to read a story that wasn’t so much about grieving a death but a loss of potential, because I think that’s the most common sort of grief we tackle. Each major life decision is a potential future lost. In this story’s case, it’s wrapped up with grief over a child, the mounting, bracing grief before a seemingly inevitable grief (another form of grief I’m so glad we got to see.”


This is a story about saying goodbye, the power of having that chance. I’ve been able to say some goodbyes and not others, and it is so valuable, even if you don’t realise it until later. That last “I love you”, that last moment with them. I loved the mix of “contemporary” and “other worldly” in this book.

Thicker than Water

This short story is about the grief experienced at a family betrayal, when you’re turned on for something that isn’t your fault.

Death in the Uncanny Valley

This is a sci-fi story about a family broken by grief, historic and present, that find each other again through childhood video games, breaching vast distances between them. I love seeing video games in fiction, that mix of reality and games that shows how virtual reality can connect people in meaningful ways that might not be possible in real life.

Summer Souls

A woman who’s lost her mother and sister watches souls on a device brought by a travelling salesman and has to come to terms with it as she watches the lives of others unfold before her. It was interesting to see the thoughts about what the machine did to souls and what that meant for grief and “rightness.”

Reliquary of the Damned

I was a bit confused by this one, mainly because I never quite worked out what “relics” were – physical objects? A more metaphorical “relic of an injury” that has some tattoo-like image on the skin? That missing piece made it harder to follow because the character’s shame over them and then coming to terms with them was the core of the story.

The Quiet

This is a story about burying grief and pain, particularly when multiple losses follow on each other’s heels. It’s also a story about hope and finding new purpose. I liked the metaphor of the “quiet” from removing pain by magic for the suffocating fog that can come over you after loss.

The Paperweight Watch

This one is about returning home after parents die, taking up the family business and trying to adjust to the new reality of being alone, of having to face a world without them. I liked that something so seemingly small and considerate set off the wave of grief, because that’s often my experience – the anger from something someone else has done to help them grief.

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