Fantasy dramas, when done right, are almost always an instant classic. And Alchemy of Souls might be like that–another Hong Sisters hit filled with homage to their past works. Sometimes, it even feels like Game of Thrones minus the dragons. I’d like to commend the drama creators for putting up such another elaborate world-building in Alchemy of Souls. The fictional country of Daeho, the mages and the royal family, the spells and relics, and the rich history that connects everyone – I honestly enjoyed watching every single episode and can’t wait to get the answers to all the season-ending cliffhangers in Part II.
First, let’s take a brief journey to the AOS universe. We have Lake Gyeonchondaeho, a magical body of water that gives powerful energy to the mages of Daeho. There are four major places to note where we can find mages: Songrim, Jinyowon, Cheonbugwan, and Sejukwon. Songrim is where the mages train magical spells and improve their skills. It is run by the Park family. Jinyowon is a sanctuary of all the old and new relics that are being protected by the Jin family. Cheonbugwan is where constellation recorders document the stars and store the plates for safekeeping. The place was previously led by the Jang family’s patriarch Jang Gang (Joo Sang-wook) and is now under the control of his assistant Jin Mu (Jo Jae-yoon). Sejukwon is the official infirmary of the royals and mages and is currently being run by the Heo family.
Centuries ago, famine and drought plagued the country, and to save everyone, the mages performed a ritual to replenish the lake’s strength. While a blind mage named Jin Seol-ran cast a spell during the ceremony, hail fell from the heavens and turned into water. However, one chunk of hail did not melt. This piece of unmelting hail transformed into fire, stone, water, then back to ice. The process produced a black powder, known today as the Soul Ejector, which the cunning mages used in the alchemy of souls.
As madness and bloodshed ensued, Master Seo Gyeong, founder of Songrim, sealed it away to protect it from those with ill intentions. The unmelting hail, now known as the Ice Stone, has been stored for centuries within the walls of Jinyowon, but it was revealed later on that Jang Gang took it to create soul ejectors and learn the alchemy of souls – the root cause of all the chaos in the drama.
Aside from the strong backstory, the drama’s other strength is the chemistry of all the characters. There are several relationships highlighted throughout the series, but the main love line stood out as expected. Jang Wook (Lee Jae-wook) and Mu-deok’s (Jung So-min) connection started as master and pupil before it progressed into something deeper. I love how Wook always emphasized that Mu-deok is his master. And they may keep a vital secret from everyone, but this did not prevent them from turning every crisis into an opportunity for learning. Despite her limitations, Mu-deok taught Wook the major techniques and trained his endurance and mental strength. Of course, Wook could not improve with solely Mu-deok’s help. Master Lee (Im Chul-soo), who also provided us with occasional laughs with his one-sided crush, played a big role in realizing Wook’s fullest potential. When everyone in Songrim was adamant about “protecting” him against the monsters of the world, Master Lee awakened his deprived energy.
But since the fact that Mu-deok is Nak-su (Go Yoon-jung) is well established, I’m not worried at all if there’s a change in the lead. If at all, this is the best-case scenario for both Mu-deok and Nak-su anyway because, since the beginning, they are two souls sharing one body. Nak-su is the one Wook loves, and even though it may take some time to get used to seeing her in another person’s face and body, she is still the same master who was with him through thick and thin. The same goes for Mu-deok, who will finally (and hopefully) get the spotlight she deserves. Not as the assassin trapped in a weakling’s body – but as the powerful blind priestess AND heiress of the Jinyowon clan. If we ever get Jung So-min to appear in Part II, it would be as Jin Bu-yeon, her true self! It can’t get any better than that!
It’s not perfect, though. The plot twists are predictable, and there are no mind-blowing revelations. But this could be intentional! Hints are obvious that you don’t need to be eagle-eyed to notice them. By the time we enter the second half of the first season, we already know Mu-deok is Bu-yeon. The writers want to take the viewers alongside them every step of the way. Trademark storytelling of the Hong Sisters—switching from the past to the present while teasing a major twist. This may turn off others, but it caters to those fans who enjoy putting puzzle pieces together while watching the story unfold. The drama doesn’t dwell much on the surprise factor about birth secrets and soul swaps. They let the audience figure it out early on so it would not confuse them when characters make drastic actions.
🌊 I usually don’t go for the reverse harem trope in fiction, but watching the Crown Prince Go Won (Shin Seung-ho), Seo Yul (Hwang Minhyun), and Wook adore Mu-deok in their own respective ways sent me to romance heaven!
🌊 But our “the ship that got away” this season would have to be the Crown Prince and Wook, right? The yin/yang jade charms are such brilliant treats for us!
🌊 Scrap that, actually, Go Won blended so well with the Four Seasons. They may always lash at each other’s throats, but they all worked well when it comes to saving Mu-deok.
🌊 May the K-drama gods hear our prayers and bless us with heartwarming scenes from the Jin sisters in Part II!
🌊 See you in the next season!