The Alchemist's Apprentice

The Alchemist's Apprentice

Book - 2007
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To the legendary clairvoyant Maestro Nostradamus, the future is forever in motion. But for young swordsman Alfeo Zeno, his apprentice and protector, the present is hard enough to contend with. His days are spent poring over astrology charts and making calculations, his nights learning arcane magic or transcribing Nostradamus's nebulous prophecies. Until one night, when the Council of Ten arrives to take the seer into custody.

It seems that a high-ranking friend of the prince died under mysterious circumstances after Nostradamus cast his horoscope, warning of danger-and rumors are swirling that the mystic poisoned the victim to enhance his own reputation. Alfeo is stunned when his master refuses to flee. Instead, Nostradamus charges Alfeo with the task of clearing his name. Now, Alfeo must unravel a web of magic and murder if he is to have any future of his own.
Publisher: New York : Ace Books, 2007.
ISBN: 9780441014798
9780441015757
Characteristics: 313 p. ;,21 cm.

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tardis
Jun 04, 2010

The always-reliable Dave Duncan has produced an enjoyable historical mystery with fantasy elements and a richly realized setting.

In Renaissance Venice a rich man dies after drinking poisoned wine. Maestro Filippo Nostradamus (astrologer, alchemist and nephew of THE Nostradamus) had cast a horoscope portending disaster for the dead man and wishes the murder solved before he is accused of arranging to fulfill his own prophecy and enhance his reputation. Being elderly and of limited mobility, he sends his dashing apprentice, Alfeo Zeno, out to do the leg work, which includes having to call up and question a demon.

Nostradamus and Zeno also have a distinct Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin vibe - Nostradamus being the cranky genius and Zeno his handsome, wise-cracking investigator and assistant. Duncan has not pushed the similarity too far, though - the supporting cast produces no orchids, no Fritz. There is a red chair (velvet, not leather) and Nostradamus once pronounces something "satisfactory." I don't know if the homage is accidental or deliberate, but as a fan of Wolfe and Goodwin, I enjoyed it.

The resolution was logical without being obvious, and there's enough action and suspense to keep the reader's attention. Highly recommended.

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