A dark and unique new fantasy

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It's not often that a book catches me by surprise, but this one certainly did. The Scarlet Alchemist is an alternate history of the Tang Dynasty in China, where royal alchemists have succeeded in developing an elixir of immortality. Additionally, it includes a reimagining of China's only female emperor, Wu Zetian (though the author notes she was alive during the Zhou Dynasty, not the Tang Dynasty). If you've read Iron Widow, you will be familiar with a reimagined Wu Zetian, but the Scarlet Alchemist takes her character in a completely different direction (and she is not a main character or heroine).

The alchemy in this book is really what makes it stand out. It is fascinating, intricate, and so dark. Really, the entire book is much darker than I expected. And yet, there are sprinkles of levity between Zilan and her siblings that made me laugh out loud and cut through the seriousness of the novel.

I absolutely LOVED that the center of this book was not romance. Instead, it was familial love. I need more books like this. There was a sprinkling of romance in this book that really came out of nowhere. Honestly, if the author left it out completely this would have been a 5 star read for me.

This book is dark, gruesome, funny, clever, and unique. It's recommend it to most fantasy readers, unless gore is triggering as this book is pretty bloody.