Format: E-Galley, 384 pages
Release Date: October 27, 2015
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Something venomous has come to Temperance …
It's been two months since Petra Dee and her coyote sidekick Sig faced off against Temperance's resident alchemist, but things are far from quiet. When an Internet video of a massive snake in the back country of Yellowstone goes viral, a chase for the mythical basilisk is on. Monster hunters swarm into the area, and never one to pass up the promise of discovery, Petra joins in the search.
Among the newcomers is a snake cult on wheels―the biker gang Sisters of Serpens. Unlike some, the Sisters don't want to kill the basilisk―they want to worship it. But things get complicated when the basilisk develops a taste for human flesh that rivals the Sisters' own murderous skills.
Meanwhile, the alchemical tree of life is dying, and the undead Hanged Men of Temperance who depend on it know the basilisk may be their last chance for survival.
With time running out for everyone around her, Petra will be forced to decide who survives and who she must leave behind in this action-packed sequel to Dark Alchemy.
Geologist Petra Dee returns in Mercury Retrograde, the second installment in author Laura Bickle's Dark Alchemy series. It has been two months since Petra came to Temperance and ended up in the middle of a war between a psychotic drug dealing alchemist named Shroud, and cattle baron named Sal Rutherford. But, she hasn't had time for a vacation yet.
Since arriving in Temperance, Petra has discovered some interesting information about her father, got attached to an adorable coyote named Sig, met Frankie, Maria, and Mike Hollander who she's become fast friends with. But, the most interesting characters in Temperance are Gabe and his Hanged Men who work for Sal Rutherford, and are supposed to be immortal.
Bickle alternates narratives between several characters; Petra, Gabe, Cal, and Belinda, the leader of a biker gang called the Sisters of the Serpens. This story twists a path from the discovery of a family apparently overcome by some biological event, to cadre of people from the government, crazy TV personalities, and hunters, including Petra, and Gabe, who travel to Yellowstone after someone posts a picture of a rather large snake on the internet.
Petra has found herself deep in trouble since her arrival in town. She may run around like a chicken with her head cut off at times, but she always seems to find the light at the end of the tunnel. She's had her eyes opened about Gabe and his Hanged Men, and even fallen for the immortal former Pinkerton man. But, it is Sig who warms my heart every time he and Petra are together.
It is Frankie, and his visions that help Petra when she needs it the most. It is Mike who she can call on when she needs access to things the Park Rangers have. And, it is Maria who always has a warm welcome and a shoulder to cry on. Petra also seems to genuinely care about the fate of Cal, even though he betrayed her.
Cal was left plagued by what happened in Dark Alchemy, and it gets even worse in this book. He struggles to understand what is happening to him. He asks for Petra's help, but then runs away and finds himself among the sisters of the Serpens. Of all the characters in this book, it is Cal who most gets my sympathy.
Let's be honest. The biker women in this story are scary and evil, and makes Stroud look like a rookie villain with the amount of bloodshed that they leave behind. They worship the Basilisk who they believe is their Goddess, they kill innocent men and anyone else who happens across their paths. And, they feed the bodies to their Goddess.
In the end, one has to sympathize with the Snake after learning how awful it was treated. One has to wonder how much more torture and pain Cal has to deal with before someone finds a way to help him. And, I genuinely hope that Petra and her father find a way to reunite in a positive way so that she can understand how his alchemy can help her.
**I received this book for free from (Publisher) via (Edelweiss) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
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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