The west is weird in MERCURY RETROGRADE. Long-buried alchemical experiments surface to oppose the local undead, while a biker gang chases mythical creatures in the small town of Temperance. It’s an odd place…as geologist Petra Dee is discovering.
These are the top ten things this scientist can’t rationally explain away:
10. Poisoned campers. A family of campers are found dead in Yellowstone National Park, dissolved as if by acid. There are no witnesses, and the manner of death defies all logical explanation.
9. Raven familiars. Ravens are thick in the skies around Temperance. They’re often seen in the company of the local undead, the Hanged Men. Many suspect that the ravens are the spies of the Hanged Men, but the truth is much more sinister, as they seem to watch events unfold with an almost-human intelligence. One of these ravens follows Petra, and she wonders if it belongs to a man she nearly allowed herself to fall for.
8. Creatures on film. A giant snake has been captured on video in the Yellowstone backcountry. Rumors surface that it’s a basilisk, a mystical serpent with immense power. Gawkers descend upon the park, creating a public safety nightmare.
7. The Sisters of Serpens. Among the hunters descending on the park are the Sisters of Serpens, a gang of murderous bikers led by the charismatic sorceress, Bel. Where others seek to capture the basilisk on film or in a cage, they seek to worship it as a goddess.
6. The Eye of the World. Stained a glorious shade of turquoise by algae, this pool of water is said to be a window to the spirit world. Petra drinks from the pool – and falls headfirst into an encounter with the basilisk in the spirit world.
5. The Venificus Locus. The founder of Temperance was an alchemist back in the Gold Rush days. Remnants of his experiments are buried throughout the countryside. Petra possesses one such artifact, a compass with the ability to detect magic. She intends to use it to chase down the basilisk, but it only runs on fresh blood.
4. Coyote familiars. The only creature Petra can trust is her coyote sidekick, Sig. He might be a coyote with an uncanny ability to navigate the spirit world, or he might be The Coyote with a capital “C.” Whichever, he has his paws full keeping track of the dangers circling Petra.
3. Ghosts of alchemists past. Petra believes that the most recent Alchemist of Temperance, Stroud, is dead. But his curse, living mercury, has infested one of his followers, a teenage boy named Cal. In trying to save Cal’s life, Petra inadvertently turns him over to the hands of the Sisters of Serpens, who know exactly how to use such power against all the guardians of Temperance.
2. The Hanged Men. The local undead, the Hanged Men, masquerade as ranch hands. Forever in the company of ravens, they must return to the Alchemical Tree of Life every night to decompose and be reborn. The magic of the tree isn’t perfect – many of the Hanged Men are little more than broken automatons, and that magic is failing. Even the power and memory of their once-indestructible leader, Gabriel, has diminished.
1. The Lunaria. The Alchemical Tree of Life is real, and it stands alone in a field owned by a ruthless cattle baron. Its roots twist deep into the earth, and its branches brush the sky. At the center of an underground warren of tunnels that reach into the very depths of the earth, the Lunaria guards the secret of the Hanged Men. But the Lunaria is dying, and the Hanged Men will do anything to save it – including chasing the basilisk to extract its magical blood and fighting anyone who stands in their way.
A Dark Alchemy Novel
About the Book:
Geologist Petra Dee and the citizens of Temperance, Wyoming come up against a venomous enemy, not to mention a biker gang that’s hell on wheels, in the second book in Laura Bickle’s Dark Alchemy series.
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 backcountry 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.
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 www.laurabickle.com