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Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite
A magnificent fusion of espionage and fantasy, The Measure of Gold by Sarah C. Patten is the story of a 22-year-old alchemist named Penelope. In 1940, Penelope arrived in Paris, bringing a stone necklace and her late father’s book. The necklace is a gift from her childhood friend, Naomie, who sent her a letter inviting her to take an apprenticeship in Paris with a scientist named Fulcanelli, who happens to be Naomie’s brother. It would seem odd for a young woman to move to Nazi-occupied Europe when everyone is fleeing and seeking refuge in other countries. But Penelope has her reasons, and part of it is the feeling of emptiness after her father’s death. Fulcanelli turns out to be a member of the French Resistance and his big laboratory is a rendezvous for other Resistance members. Penelope reluctantly joins the cause while at the same time falling in love with Lucien, another apprentice in the lab.
Sarah C. Patten has written a first-rate spy fantasy thriller set in the tumultuous period of Europe during World War II. All the details are clear, and the characters are well-defined through their actions and characteristics. There is something fascinating about throwing the mystical art of alchemy into the mix. Patten has thoroughly researched her subject on its historical and mystical aspects to form a solid storyline. Despite the fantastic element, The Measure of Gold introduces a strong sense of reality. Penelope as a protagonist may appear too perfect, and Patten may well be aware of this, but what Penelope endures in the process becomes a welcome imperfection. The romantic angle between Penelope and Lucien is another element that makes this novel a must-read for anyone craving a story that blends three excellent genres—spy, fantasy, and romance.