NESFA Members' Reviews

coverThe Alchemist's Door

by  Lisa Goldstein

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Tor, 2002, $23.95, 286 pp

Rabbi Loew meets Dr. Dee!

Dr. John Dee was the foremost English alchemist and would-be wizard and was part of the court of Elizabeth I. In The Alchemist's Door Lisa Goldstein tells of Dee's extended trip to Eastern Europe caused by his all-too-successful conjuration of a demon with sinister intentions against him and his family. By feeling England, Dee hopes to escape the demon's notice, but to no avail.

Meanwhile, in Prague, Rabbi Loew hopes to be Chief Rabbi one day and continues his own occult studies. The Holy Roman Emperor, meanwhile, has moved his capitol to Prague and himself digs deeply into magic and alchemy. Why?

It turns out that the alchemist's Door is a metaphysical one which has been slowly opening and letting magic into the world. When it opens completely – in Prague – magic will be strong and magicians powerful, but demons will also have free access to our world. Dee and Loew eventually learn this and seek – successfully – to close the door, and while this provides much of the plot, their mutual overcoming of their prejudices against each other and their personal faults makes for a fantasy considerably better than the usual schlock fantasy.

Loew's creation of the Golem (in which Dee had a small part) is also well done, as are the moral and philosophical issues Loew must deal with once the golem has been created.

Nicely done – recommended.

NESFA homepage | Review Index | More Reviews by Mark L. Olson