Okay, that's it, I'm offically a fan-girl for Paolo. The Alchemist is one of a pair of novellas (the other by Tobias Buckell,) set in the same fantasy world, where magic is destroying the Kingdoms by fueling the growth of a magical and deadly bramble. The titular character devotes his life to finding a way to defeat the bramble and restore the ability and right for all to use magic. Unfortunately, he runs afoul of those in power who use the threat to carry out their own bloody agenda. It all follows a classic storyline: good man does good things at great sacrifice, is discovered, becomes a pawn for those who do bad things... I don't know about anybody else, but I read genre fiction because I want the classic stories. What I'm looking for is prose that pulls me into the world, makes me care about the people drawn therein, and makes me feel what they are feeling. On all counts, The Alchemist delivers. My only complaint, as with all good stories, is that it ended too soon.