Alchemy of Souls Season 1 Review – Starts with a bang but ends with a whimper

Season 1

Episode Guide

Episode 1 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 9 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 10 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 11 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 12 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 13 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 14 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 15 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 16 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 17 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 18 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 19 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 20 -| Review Score – 3.5/5


Alchemy of Souls is unlike many K-dramas out there. In a year that’s brought us X number of law dramas from Asia, Alchemy of Souls defiantly sticks to its guns and delivers an enthralling and intoxicating blend of fantasy and romance.

Spread across 20 episodes, the show actually does a decent job harking in an age of politics and magic, with the best parts of Goblin, Arthdal Chronicles and general C-drama epics working in tandem. But yet, the show also falters in some key areas too, holding this back from being a better show.

The story is set deep in the fictional country of Daeho. Erased from maps and deemed to be invisible, the country plays host to a number of young mages who study magic, split across four different houses.

All of this is set on the foundations of the past, which include an elite assassin named Naksu, whose soul is trapped inside the body of Mu-Deok, a servant to Jang-Uk. Jang-Uk happens to be from a powerful and noble family, Songrim. Jang-Uk holds a dark secret about his birth which could well be linked to a forbidden magic spell called the Alchemy of Souls. When he finds out about Mu-Deok’s true identity, he enlists her help to change his destiny.

Of course, there are antagonists waiting in the wings to stop that coming to fruition, which comes in the form of the house, Cheonbugwan, led by the slimy Jin-Mu. He has his claws in fellow house Jinyowon, led by Ho-Gyeong who’s still wounded by the loss of her youngest daughter.

The overseeing power above these houses comes in the form of the Royal Family, led by King Go Soon who has more than a few skeletons in his closet. And as for the Queen? Well, she’s certainly no saint either! Caught in the middle of this unholy alliance is Go Won, the Royal Prince. He ends up entangled with Jang-Uk and Mu-Deok, alongside the former’s friends, Dang-Gu and Seo-Yul.

There are a lot of characters in this and while it’s not a complete head-scratching George R.R. Martin appendices of players, there’s a lot to remember – and you need to be paying attention right the way through this to get as much out of the story and understand how all these people connect together.

The trouble with Alchemy of Souls though is that it ultimately feels like a medley of tropes and genres, with its execution hitting varying degrees of success. The romantic element of this is pretty good, and the humour hits more than it misses, but the actual narrative moves along at such a slow pace that long episodes tick by without anything really happening. When the story does get moving – with an exciting couple of episodes to finish things off – a number of contrivances and plot holes crop up, souring the experience.

I’m not going to go into spoiler-territory here but an ending can make or break a show and in the case of Alchemy of Souls, I fear that the latter is true. Given the amount of build up for Naksu and her history, seeing this badass heroine not get the amount of epic scenes she so rightly deserves is a bit disappointing.

Thankfully, the show does have some good action and a decent amount out character development that irons out some of the disappointment. As mentioned before, the romance is probably the best part of this and the show is certainly enjoyable, despite its flaws. Alchemy of Souls may have started with a bang, but it ultimately ends with a whimper, which is a real shame.

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  • Verdict - 7/10

5 thoughts on “Alchemy of Souls Season 1 Review – Starts with a bang but ends with a whimper”

  1. I enjoyed it uncritically.
    The special effects were above par and the characters developed in a way that made it easy to connect to them.
    The music id good, though 2 or 3 pieces dominate the show and it can get a bit distracting.
    The relationships progressed well and naturally, except Go-Won; it was a good bui8ld up but as a romance it was a bit left field. It feels better as a petulant grab for a nice toy by a spoiled kid, except he’s self-aware enough to recognize that in himself.
    Jang Uk is a very engaging character with well paced development (aside from basically doing a god-mode override on his training montage). He is also excellent comedy by himself because he is incredibly sassy and his dialogue is alternately hilarious, mischievous or heart-breakingly sincere. I honestly enjoyed him very much.
    The relationship between Park Jin and Maidservant Kim is hilarious, frustrating and ultimately sweet as candyfloss. This is the best bromance in the series.
    Periods of action and intensity get a good buildup and crescendo, which is satisfying in most episodes. Comedic relief is applied with a deft and mostly non-jarring touch – just enough to stop the show from becoming too heavy and adding pleasing depth to character interrelationships.
    I will agree that Naksu was done dirty at the end; she is one of the few female characters that aren’t useless, helpless or a gross stereotype of “powerful” female lead that usually comes across as distasteful. No, Naksu/Mu-doek is a genuine badass and her sass, pragmatism and occasional naivete are well-balanced to make her likeable. However, the show really doesn’t do her much justice at the end.
    And the end was basically like having the dragonballs to Deus ex Machina the whole thing. While visually pretty and obviously necessary for the story, it was a gaping hole and cheap fix for the plot.

  2. I wish this drama could go on forever i loved it! The lead male is so damn sexy i love all the movies i saw him in.
    Please continue the series!

  3. Alchemy of Souls has given our family of 5 a break from staring at our iPads and iPhones after dinner. It is very enjoyable, the soundtrack is soothing, and has a little of everything. The English subtitles are good for the kids learning.

  4. The show isn’t even finished, there’s still 10 more episodes in December which obviously I won’t give a spoiler alert for because I could say so much about Naksu and Buyeon ..but anyone reading this probably already saw the show back in August.

    This show is deff more 8 or 9 out of 10. How many k dramas do you even watch Greg?? 😤🙃

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