The Rebel Branch Initiate’s Guide

The Rebel Branch Initiate’s Guide is a commentary and guide to Canadian author Cynthea Masson’s novels of the Alchemists’ Council, written with her approval and encouragement. They are as yet incomplete, but I hope to fix that before her next novel is released.

What is the Alchemists’ Council?

The Alchemists’ Council is a literary fantasy novel by Cynthea Masson, published by ECW
of Canada in 2016. The first of a trilogy, this novel explores the power of words and free will, and also deals with the real-world issue of mass bee deaths due to pesticide abuse.

Cover for Cynthea Masson's THE ALCHEMISTS' COUNCIL
Cover for Cynthea Masson’s THE ALCHEMISTS’ COUNCIL

As a new Initiate with the Alchemists’ Council, Jaden is trained to maintain the elemental balance of the world while fending off interference by the malevolent Rebel Branch. Bees are disappearing both from the pages of the ancient manuscripts in Council dimension and the outside world, threatening its very existence. Jaden navigates alchemy’s complexities, but the more she learns, the more she begins to question Council practices. She realizes the Rebel Branch might not be the enemy she was taught to fight against. As the Council finds itself at the brink of war, Jaden must decide where her allegiance lies.

from the back of the 2016 paperback edition

About Cynthea Masson

Cynthea Masson currently teaches medieval literature and composition at Vancouver Island University. She is the author of another novel, The Elijah Tree (Rebel Satori, 2009), and is more recently one of the editors of Reading Joss Whedon (Syracuse University Press, 2014).

You can find her online at

Why Write the Rebel Branch Initiate’s Guide?

Because The Alchemists’ Council focuses on alchemical practice inspired by real-world traditions from medieval and classical Europe and Asia, readers unfamiliar with medieval alchemy may encounter difficulties while reading this novel.

Readers should be aware that Professor Masson uses intrigue and politics to drive the plot of The Alchemists’ Council As such, the novel is best suited to readers who also enjoyed Frank Herbert’s Dune. The heavy emphasis on organizational politics is a consequence of Jaden’s status as a Junior Initiate of the Alchemists’ Council. As the newest initiate, Jaden is still learning the ropes. The reader must therefore learn the ropes with her.

Furthermore, the alchemical terminology may prove challenging to some readers. While the novel isn’t as reliant on scholarly prowess as certain works by the late Umberto Eco (e.g. Foucault’s Pendulum and The Name of the Rose, having some background knowledge of alchemy that didn’t come from either Fullmetal Alchemist or Andrezj Sapkowski’s The Witcher may prove helpful.

Since I possess some of this knowledge, I’ve decided to compile a rough reader’s guide to The Alchemists’ Council. I’ll be working from the 2016 ECW Press paperback, and will cite page numbers when quoting passages.

It is my hope that the following commentaries will help illuminate aspects of Cynthea Masson’s The Alchemists’ Council that might otherwise remain occult. However, beyond this point lie spoilers. This is the only warning you may expect to receive.

The Alchemists’ Council forbids you to read any further.

The Rebel Branch encourages you to continue, but the choice is yours…

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