The Alchemist's Door Hardcover – Aug 3 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
The legend of the golem, an increasingly popular piece of Jewish folklore, and an obscure portion of medieval history come to intriguing life in this supernatural thriller from American Book Award-winner Goldstein (The Red Magician; Dark Cities Underground). Ambitious 16th-century (real-life) English alchemist John Dee and his associate, Edward Kelley, summon spirits to learn the nature of the world, but are unprepared when a demon answers their spells instead and threatens Dee's family. Hoping to escape, Dee and his family travel with Kelley to Prague, where they plan to ask the patronage of eccentric King Rudolf. In Prague, Dee meets Rabbi Judah Loew, who seek to learn the identity of Jewish legend's 36 righteous men, whose very existence protects the world from being remade by evil. Unfortunately, influenced by Kelley, Rudolf thinks that if he can find those righteous men and kill them, he will be able to remake the world to his own specifications. After escaping Rudolf's prison, Dee and Loew build a man of clay, a golem, to protect Prague's Jewish quarter from the king's soldiers, only to find once again that summoned powers can be hard to handle safely. In order to defeat evil, both men will first have to weigh their own magical abilities and realize that the power to create is merely the other side of the power to destroy. Although Goldstein's story has a tendency to meander all over the map, diluting her strong message about the cost of power and pride, Dee and Loew's search for truth makes for a telling morality tale.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In the last years of the 16th century, Dr. John Dee, astrologer and alchemist to Elizabeth I, leaves England for the furthest reaches of Europe, in hopes of escaping a conjured demon intent on destroying his life and career. In Prague, Dee meets with the esteemed Rabbi Loew. Despite their differences in religion and social class, the two men embark on a mystical quest for the last righteous man, knowing that if they fail, the world will fall under the sway of darkness. The author of The Red Magician and Dark Cities Underground spins a luminous tale of a meeting that never was but might have been. Meticulous research, pristine storytelling, and Goldstein's genuine affection for her characters make this historical fantasy a priority purchase for most libraries.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
Goldstein seems to have hacked her way through this novel without thinking things through first. The finished product offered barely more cohesion and enjoyment than would a rough draft. Shame on Goldstein for not polishing this haggard piece, and a pox on TOR for publishing such poorly written work.
Some very important points were either overlooked or ignored. Take the thirty-six righteous dudes, for instance. No one knows who they are, not even themselves. But the Big Bad King is looking for one of them to kill so he can become the new Master of the Universe, or whatever. So heï¿½s got a list of about six or seven of them. Where did he get this list? He got it from a bunch of scientist-types who sat around one day in a bar and just sort of came up with it. Off the top of their heads. ... They guessed, and the book admits as much. Now, the King wants to kill the thirty-sixth righteous dude. Not the twenty-eighth or the seventeenth or the ninth. The THIRTY-SIXTH. What difference does it make? Just snag one of them, cut his head off, and be the new god. Or whatever. So a major plotline is the good guys trying to find the thirty-sixth righteous dude before the Bad King gets him. Nevermind the thirty-five others ready and waiting to be killed.
I just canï¿½t get over this thirty-six righteous men plotline.Read more ›
Both the character of Dee and of Rabbi Loew were described in a very unreliable manner. Does the author truly believe that Rabbi Loew, a genius of his time, spoke only German, Czech and Hebrew? In Goldstein's world the Maharal (as Loew is commonly known) does not speak nor understand Latin and his scholarly knowledge is quite limited even though the historical figure was a renaissance man. Dee on the other hand looses complete contact with his historical figure, as he is portrait almost as a Harry Potter minus the wand, striding about with incantations for opening doors and breaking windows.
Instead of feeling drawn into an authentic world of the Occult and complicated ceremonial magic one witnesses Dee's Harry-Potter-like incantations, which really ruin any chance of taking the book seriously. Loew too talks about magic as if it is something completely ordinary without any kind of reference to the problems arising in Jewish culture around these issues. Loew's magic is considered Kabbalah, but what about Dee's? How can Loew wander around with his spell casting Harry-Potter friend without any referral to the source of his powers?Read more ›
Author Lisa Goldstein delivers a deft mixture of history and fantasy. Her writing is clear and keeps the pages turning. I was distracted, however by some of the logic holes. Why, for example, didn't Emperor Rudolf simply kill everyone on his list rather than engage Dee and Loew to find the one man? He certainly didn't show much respect for life. What, exactly, was the whole Erzsebet thing about--was it really only to bring in old Hungarian legends? And what happened to the second demon--the one that could physically manifest itself and that served Kelley? Finally, the ultimate battle seemed anticlimactic and I was left wondering whether Dee really sacrificed much, really made a heroic gesture. Attempting to close to door between the universes would have been a more powerful symbol if Dee had been able to truly use the magics that came through the gateway. Instead, his sacrifice wasn't particularly large, reducing the power of the novel.
THE ALCHEMIST'S DOOR is a pleasant read with its setting in the historically significant period of Elizabeth I, its use of historic characters in alternate history settings, and its travels through the mystical world of Eastern Europe at a time when the Turks were still capable of threatening all of Christendom and when Jews were forced into ghettos.
Most recent customer reviews
"The Alchemist's Door," takes what should be an exciting story and through the lack of detail that brings prose to life end up rather ho-hum. Read morePublished on Nov. 18 2002 by Richard Wells
Set in the sixteenth century, The Alchemist's Door chronicles the life of legendary English mathematician, alchemist and astrologer John Dee, the inspiration for Prospero in... Read morePublished on Oct. 18 2002 by Amazon Customer
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