Monday, December 26, 2016

The Alchemy of Wolves By Laura Bickle

Alchemy is a strange and beautiful art. Its practitioners sought to transform base metals into gold and search for the secret to immortality. Through a series of destructive and constructive processes, an element would be purified and transformed. Some symbols appear and reappear in the texts as secret notations for processes and elements, and I love playing with them as plot points. Wolves are one of those points in NINE OF STARS.

NINE OF STARS centers around a pack of wolves, the Nine Stars pack. Once upon a time, they were human shapeshifters, but they forgot their magic and have remained suspended in the bodies of wolves for centuries. They’ve had a rough go of it, lately – it’s been a tough winter, and they’re searching for new hunting grounds. In doing so, they’ve wandered into the territory of an eighteenth-century spirit, Skinflint Jack, who harbors a grudge against wolves. Jack pursues them across the snows of Yellowstone, a magical predator chasing once-magical prey.

Petra Dee, my protagonist, is a geologist on the trail of the wolves. Though she’s the daughter of an alchemist, she’s an ordinary woman, with no magic of her own. She’s trying to stop Skinflint Jack using her wits and the tools at her disposal, whatever she can find or cobble together. 

In alchemy, the Grey Wolf is used as a symbol for antimony. Antimony sometimes forms a silvery starlike structure – it’s very pretty, in many of its states. It’s a symbol for the wild, animal nature of the world. Antimony devours nearby elements, and is one of the elements traditionally used in bullet casting. 

Antimony is also an important element in the separation process of alchemy, when elements are purified, and the alchemist must decide what’s worth saving from the fire and reaction of the process – essentially discerning what could be gold, and what is likely worthless. I began to think how this might relate to my plot.

I decided to make antimony Jack’s weakness – the Grey Wolf is his nemesis and also his vulnerability. When Petra discovers this, she uses antimony to cast bullets in the hopes of striking him down. It’s a difficult process in the conditions of the snowy backcountry, a long-shot experiment…but it will be worth it if this symbol of the wolves can be used to put Skinflint Jack in the ground, where he belongs.  

Nine of Stars 
A Wildlands Novel   
Laura Bickle

On Sale Date: December 27, 2016

ISBN: 9780062437662 

Genre:  Contemporary Fantasy 

Publisher: Harper Voyager

About the Book:

Following on the heels of her critically acclaimed prequel novels Dark Alchemy and Mercury Retrograde comes the first installment in Laura Bickle’s dark contemporary fantasy series, Nine of Stars, a Wildlands Novel

Winter has always been a deadly season in Temperance, but this time, there’s more to fear than just the cold…

As the daughter of an alchemist, Petra Dee has faced all manner of occult horrors—especially since her arrival in the small town of Temperance, Wyoming. But she can’t explain the creature now stalking the backcountry of Yellowstone, butchering wolves and leaving only their skins behind in the snow. Rumors surface of the return of Skinflint Jack, a nineteenth-century wraith that kills in fulfillment of an ancient bargain.

The new sheriff in town, Owen Rutherford, isn’t helping matters. He’s a dangerously haunted man on the trail of both an unsolved case and a fresh kill—a bizarre murder leading him right to Petra’s partner Gabriel. And while Gabe once had little to fear from the mortal world, he’s all too human now. This time, when violence hits close to home, there are no magical solutions.

It’s up to Petra and her coyote sidekick Sig to get ahead of both Owen and the unnatural being hunting them all—before the trail turns deathly cold.

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About the Author:

Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology-Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs. Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016.

More information about Laura’s work can be found at

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Laura Bickle said...

Thanks so much for hosting me today, Roxanne! I appreciate it!

Raonaid Luckwell said...

When I'm caught up with my reviewing obligations I need to check this series out. I enjoy all the other books Laura's written (even with her other alias)

Laura Bickle said...

Thanks, Raonaid! My own TBR stack is completely out of control! :-)