Set in an alternate history where the world is flat, Royal Physic Parris is caught dissecting human bodies in the name of Science. His unusual punishment is to accompany the slightly crazy, world-wandering alchemist on a voyage to the mysterious island of Haven. After a shipful of men returned and died shortly after arriving in England, Parris has little hope for the journey to end well, but the scientific discoveries possible pique his curiosity.
Quintessence focuses around the ground-breaking Science coming out of the 16th century, with a bit of a mystical twist. It was obvious that the book was meticulously researched, with intersecting pieces of history and scientific discoveries that came to light in the 16th century. The plot was intriguing enough to keep the story moving forward, with a unique look at magical beings from a more Scientific slant.
Personally, it is this unique look at alchemy and magic that dragged Quintessence down for me. The details were compelling at times, but often caused the story to stall moving forward. I also am not the most interested in Science, so this view of things could just not be my cup of tea, either. I felt the overabundance of technical things cut out a majority of a potential audience, myself included. I also felt the characters were a bit flat, making the plot the driving force of the novel.
Without dynamic characters, Quintessence was a novel that just did not work for me, but would be great for those readers that love diving into the details and want to find an intriguing twist on our past and our understanding of how the world works.