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The Alchemist‘s Code


When the daughter of a senior Venetian nobleman disappears, his wife drags him off to consult the celebrated clairvoyant, Filippo Nostradamus. The Maestro guesses right away that the problem is an elopement, not an abduction, but he agrees to use his clairvoyance to find the missing girl. Too old and infirm to go adventuring himself, he sends his gallant apprentice, Alfeo Zeno, to intercept the lovers--and Alfeo promptly finds himself in the middle of an unwanted sword fight. Alfeo prevails, though, and all seems headed for a happy ending. Not so, for politics intervenes. The ruling Council of Ten decides that if the Maestro can find a missing girl, he ought to be able to identify a dangerous foreign spy, known only--and ominously--as Algol, the Ghoul. Soon Alfeo and Nostradamus find themselves up against black magic; Alfeo becomes prime suspect in a murder case, and then both of them are arrested on a charge of witchcraft...  


" The even more intriguing sequel to The Alchemist's Apprentice is a mystery solved by the clairvoyant and sage Nostradamus and his apprentice, Alfeo Zeno. . . Duncan's alternate late Renaissance Venice is wonderfully drawn and quite believable. " - Booklist

" ...continues Duncan's fantasy "biography" of the legendary prophet, focusing as well on his young apprentice, who represents the liveliness and richness of the Italian Renaissance. This should appeal to fans of historical fantasy, and belongs in most libraries. " - Library Journal

" The plot thickens into a dangerous stew of politics, ambition, forbidden romance, treachery and murder, leavened by Alfeo's wit and his accounts of amorous adventures with a courtesan lover, glorious meals, great artwork (his other passion), and occasional swordplay. Oh, and magic too. Here Duncan is at his cleverest, for some of the Renaissance alchemy, pyromancy and sessions of tarot reading genuinely work and some don't. Though Alfeo himself is developing new occult powers, he remains confused about his master's doings--until Nostradamus finally explains all, in a masterful exercise of Holmesian logic." - Locus

" Dave Duncan's return to the Venice of alchemist, physician, and clairvoyant Maestro Nostradamus and his engaging apprentice Alfeo is as fun and exciting as the first book, The Alchemist's Apprentice . . . Duncan is an unfairly under-appreciated writer who deserves a wider readership." - SF Revu

" In this mixture of fantasy and murder mystery, Alfeo proves to be witty, insouciant and sometimes slow on the uptake, but Nostradamus is always ahead of the game as he works out how to catch the spy's courier without coming under the less than tender mercies of the Three, the state inquisitors. How he does so, and how Alfeo does the dirty legwork, makes for a fast paced and delightful narrative." - Edmonton Journal

Sample Chapter

I hate prologues. When I go to a theater I want action, dialogue, dancing, singing. I resent some long-winded actor coming out to lecture me at length on what the play is about or how great the performance is going to be. In real life prologues are more interesting but rarely recognizable. This was like that--at the time I did not realize I was in a prologue, but it is relevant to the story and I promise to keep it brief.

"Saints preserve us! Alfeo Zeno!"

That was how it began.