The Chemickal Marriage by G.W. Dahlquist

10 December, 2012

The Doctor found the hidden door and pulled it wide. On another table lay a man secured with chains, naked, pale and still. Miss Temple screamed. Cardinal Chang’s eyes snapped open.

G.W. Dahlquist is back on fine form with the concluding volume of his Glass Books trilogy, The Chemickal Marriage. After the events in The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters and The Dark Volume, Miss Temple, Cardinal Chang and Doctor Svenson find themselves thrown together once again after surviving the horrifying crash of their airship and the betrayal of their nemesis, the cruel and achingly beautiful Contessa di Lacquer-Sforza.

But all is not as it seems as all three have had to endure severe trauma which may ultimately tear apart the pact they had made with one another at the beginning of their adventure. Miss Temple has been subjected to the decadent degeneracy of the blue glass books, forbidden memories of the now dead members of the decaying aristocracy and members of the Cabal from the hidden to the carnal swirling around in her brain. Will she be able to control her emotions and physical urges? Cardinal Chang has been captive of the increasingly deranged Lord Vandaarif who has experimented extensively on Chang’s body but has allowed him to remain alive. And Dr. Svenson has suffered the loss of his love who was stabbed in the back by the Contessa whom they have all vowed in their own way to kill.

And so the three of them, damaged but burning with revenge are in a race against time to stop the Cabal from staging a coup and destroying their world. And in order to do this, they must unravel the puzzling trail set by the Contessa to find the mysterious painting called The Chemickal Marriage. What is the meaning of this painting and what does it have to do with the poisonous glass books? And what is the real motive behind the Contessa’s actions? For the beautiful, beguiling lady is not an enemy they can trust.

After what I thought was a brilliant debut and a disappointing second volume, The Chemickal Marriage had me hooked right from the start. There is something about Dahlquist’s writing, the sheer exuberance and decadence which tugs you wholly into his tale. I raced through the book with trepidation, wanting to know whether Miss Temple, Cardinal Chang and Dr. Svenson would survive. And most importantly, would Miss Temple and Cardinal Chang get it together?

I used to read obsessively about alchemy and the notion of the chemickal marriage or chymical wedding is intriguing. I loved the way in which Dahlquist folded in these esoteric ideas within his story while at the same time keeping it current with the steampunk theme and the mishmash of Mittel-European with the neo-Victorian. I just loved everything about it including the ultimate villainy of the baddies from the delicously cruel Contessa to the rather stereotyped Foisin, Lord Vandaarif’s Asiatic right hand man/killer. The combination of Cardinal Chang, assassin and all round badass with a chivalrous heart, and Dr. Svenson, the upright Teutonic diplomat who muddies his noble ways, and Miss Temple, the prim and proud virgin who can’t control her lusty thoughts, just adds to the complex tale woven by Dahlquist. True, I may have gotten a little confused with part of the plot but who cares? Dahlquist has managed to ensnare my attention for the length of the novel and I sincerely hope that he will write more about this crazy, bustling world he has created.

If you want adventure with a dash of steampunk, history and sex, then look no further. As usual, I recommend starting with the first book in the series, The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters.

And do check out Annabel’s post for a brilliant overview of the series.

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14 Responses to “The Chemickal Marriage by G.W. Dahlquist”

  1. gaskella Says:

    I concur totally Sakura. This trilogy was huge fun. The third volume was certainly a return to form after the slightly disappointing second, and I enjoyed surfing along on the tidal wave of the convuluted plot!

  2. Carl V. Says:

    I have got to get back to this series at some point. I’ve read most of the first book and have the second one. I don’t know why but as much as I think Dahlquist’s writing is gorgeous and engaging I end up getting distracted and have a hard time getting back to the story.

    • sakura Says:

      There is a lot going on, especially in the first book. The last one was more of a race against time and was therefore a lot more focussed. But his writing style is certainly gorgeous.

  3. Marie Says:

    I have only heard about this series recently and I am really keen to give the first installment a read. They sound so much fun! It will be my first dabble into the world of steampunk.

  4. aartichapati Says:

    Oh, bummer! I recently donated my copy of Glass Books of the Dream Eaters because I had heard such lukewarm reviews of that book! And, I admit, because it’s so long. Hmm… I may reconsider if the trilogy is that good!

  5. Alex Says:

    Glad to hear that after the 2nd novel he pulled it together and produced a good end. This series has one of my favorite “brand images”.

    • sakura Says:

      It’s a very strong and gorgeous image, isn’t it? And I’m just really glad the third volume lived up to everyone’s expectations. Being a writer must be hard!

  6. Kristen M. Says:

    I bought Glass Books in hardcover when it was first out but then didn’t love it (I can’t recall quite why but I think it was because some of the situations seemed gratuitous). Now though I’m curious about the rest of the series yet I’ve already sold my copy. Grr. 🙂

    • sakura Says:

      There are lots of extreme scenes and I can see why it would put people off. And yet, I don’t think I’ve come across anything like it before. You’ll just have to go and read the rest!


  7. I really need to read this series. I’m glad this one was worth waiting for despite the disappointing middle book!


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