In two days, The Order of the Scales is officially published in the UK, although you can probably wander into Waterstones and buy it now. That’s the end of the memory of Flames trilogy, for better or for worse. It’s a series that has tried to dig a little deeper with each book. We started with politics and intrigue, murder, sex and betrayal in The Adamantine Palace. Now it’s a battle for survival, one species against another, and both of them will do terrible things. There was never meant to be a ‘right side’ or a ‘wrong side’ and there are certainly no traditional heroes in either camp (and hopefully by the end, the villains will turn out to be more complex than they initially seemed). What there is is a big fucking great problem and not enough being done about it. For some, it’s simply too difficult, but for most, it’s simply that dealing with it gets in the way of their own ambitions, and frankly, the problem belongs to someone else – it’s what the alchemists are for, dammit.
If you read the book and read the dedication, you’ll probably guess that I, personally, would root for the alchemists. And whether they suceed in the end and somehow put the genie back in the bottle, whether they fail and all burn, whether they manage some sort of ugly compromise, or mysteriously unite into a future of happy co-existence, you can be sure it would have been a lot easier without any of the people with crowns on their heads getting in the way.
By co-incidence, I happened to be at a talk last night given by a a group of people I will describe as contemporary alchemists. Bad Science (Ben Goldacre’s blog – I particularly liked this one) is worthy of your attention. As is this, this (sorry to pick on Canada) and this if only for the mission statement.
Support your neighbourhood alchemist! Or dragons will get you