The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian

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I picked this up because it was free on my Prime account and the cover intrigued me. It hinted at a Gargoyle being involved with the story and I was not disappointed in that aspect.

This is about an alchemist named Zoe. She was born ~300 years ago and lived through the Salem witch trials and now is living in modern society in Portland Oregon. She’s just bought a run down house and is trying to set down roots after decades of traveling. She was most recently in France and decided to move countries and start over fresh in a place she could feel like home. When she opened her shipping container she was shocked to find a gargoyle inside. Her world mirrors our own in that magic and alchemy and all that is not the norm, people would send you to a psych ward if you told them you were hundreds of years old. Even though Zoe is centuries old she’s never encountered a gargoyle before, and she doesn’t know how to react. He turns out to need her help, he has a condition where he is slowly turning back to stone and he will be trapped that way forever, but still conscious – unless he can find a cure. He believes the answers are in a book that he can’t read and so he went to Zoe for help. She’s the only alchemist he knows of and the book is supposedly an ancient alchemy text. Things get weirder when people get murdered and someone steals the book.

Zoe was okay I guess. I never really warmed up to her, she just seemed too naïve to be hundreds of years old. She was making mistakes you’d think a 20 year old would make, not someone who’s had lifetimes of practice trying to stay hidden. (Even the gargoyle points it out a few times, but that didn’t make it any better, it just irritated me more since it’s clear it would take someone exceptionally dense to make the kinds of decisions that she does) Since she bought a dilapidated house she needed a handy man to come fix it, but he was mysteriously murdered right outside her house.

Zoe has a special connection to plants, she can smell them in a way most people can’t, she has an innate sense of what a plant can do for you as far as healing, she can tell you what you’re cooking with, etc. Zoe knows when she finds the body of the handyman that he was poisoned. No one else could possibly ever fucking know that. She calls the cops and she immediately says something about the guy being poisoned. I’m not 300 years old and I know that’s a dumb as shit move, especially to a god damn detective. Things like that constantly pulled me out of the moment and it brought the score down in multiple categories. That said, I loved the gargoyle, he was a great character that I wanted to see more of and enjoyed each time he was on page.

The world building was light, there were some things mentioned about magic and whatnot, but it’s not like there was a ton of change from the real world to make it feel like a lot of time was spent on the fantastical elements of their world. There were myths that were confirmed as truth, so in a way the world building was that many of our legends were once real, like Nicolas Flamel.

The writing was okay, it was very to the point and not descriptive and didn’t use simile or metaphor all that often. However, there was an inordinate amount of time spent on food, I think the reader was told nearly every breakfast, lunch, and dinner that Zoe made for herself. This may appeal to some people, but it was just too much for me, and I’m someone who generally likes food in books. The dialogue was okay, nothing was so bad that I had a terrible reaction to it, but I did roll my eyes a few times, especially when it involved the detective, Max.

There were points in the plot that I just thought were a bit convenient… the very day she moves in kids just happen to be daring each other to break into the house because they think it’s haunted? And the kid who breaks in just happens to be really good with herbs and starts learning alchemy from her right away even though she wants to stay hidden? The detective investigating her just happens to have a grandmother who was an herbalist/alchemist? Too many things were “coincidental” for it to actually feel coincidental which pulled me from the story.

I had very mixed feelings about this, I thought the gargoyle angle makes this stand out from a lot of other fantasy… but the execution just didn’t grab me. This could have a lot of niche appeal, however. For people who love reading about food and are taken in with smells and cooking and herbs/spices – you could get a lot of enjoyment out of this. You could enjoy it twice over if you also are a vegan – Zoe is a vegan and so all the food in the book is animal free, and heavy on the different kinds of tea. In a way it was a very peaceful and warm book, so although it’s not for me, it could be for you.


  • Tropes: centuries old character living in secret, magic is hidden, starting life over, accidental discoveries
  • Tags: Gargoyles, Vegan friendly, single POV, fast reads, audiobooks, female lead, bouncy main character, warm stories, light romance
  • Genre: YA, Urban


  • Plot: 7/15
  • Characters: 8/15
  • World Building: 9/15
  • Writing: 11/15
  • Pacing: 11/15
  • Originality: 11/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 6/10

Final Score: 63/100 or 3.15/5 on Goodreads