What happens when you mix an A-list cast of actors and a Korean fusion historical fantasy? SO. MUCH. Come see if Kmuse and The Maknae have been loving the ride that is Alchemy of Souls.
The Story So Far
Once upon a time, in a Korea that never existed, there were mages who had a place at court and could perform all sorts of feats if they cultivated their magic long enough. Jang Gang is the court’s mage, powerful enough to command lightning and perform a forbidden feat like switching souls. The sickly king calls on him to do just that, and takes over the mage’s body just long enough to father a child. It’s a complicated birth story for our main lead, Jang Uk, and to make it worse, his father brought him to court as an infant and publicly locked his gate of energy, robbing him of his health and his ability to wield magic.
In the shadowy realms of the kingdom, the assassin Naksu learned her craft and took on impossible missions, building her reputation into a thing of legend. Due to a series of circumstances, her soul is shifted into the body of a poor blind maid named Mu Deok. She ends up becoming Jang Uk’s maidservant and the shenanigans begin.
Jung So Min is AMAZING
The star of hits like The Smile Has Left Your Eyes and Because This Is My First Life, Jung So Min has a proven range and capability that makes her absolutely perfect as the frustrated vessel for Naksu’s soul. She’s playing a deep game from the start, and her journey towards becoming a person of significance in Jang Uk’s life is hilarious yet intriguing.
Kmuse: Jung So Min has really grown as an actress from when I first saw her twelve years ago in Playful Kiss. This character has a lot of nuanced emotions and she is nailing every one. She also seems to have chemistry with all the men in this drama, so that also makes this doubly enjoyable.
Karie the Maknae: Jung So Min impressed me in Because This is My First Life and the trend continued when I watched My Father is Strange. She’s fabulous with nuanced emotion, and does a great job of portraying someone who just KNOWS they are more capable than their current body is allowing them to be. Her code-switching between being the servant and the master cracks me up.
Lee Jae Wook Was Meant to be a Prince
Rocketing onto the “must watch” list in the last few years is Lee Jae Wook, the main lead for solid dramas like Search: WWW and Extraordinary You (and the drama that shall not be named. We’ll mention it grudgingly). He’s perfectly cast as the privileged son of the court mage, bouncing from master to master to find a discipline he’s suited for and frustrated because none of them are it. His connection to Mu Deok is not immediate, but she eventually earns his respect, changing both of their lives.
Kmuse: This might be my favorite role of his to date. He looks so good in his gorgeous blue robes and I can’t help but fall for him every time he shows up on the screen. His character jumps around a lot emotionally as well since he is going through trauma after trauma both emotionally and physically in order to become the man he is fated to be. Can’t wait to see the final product!
Karie the Maknae: I love that Lee Jae Wook isn’t leaning into whininess for his character portrayal. I mean, Jang Uk would have earned it — he’s been blocked by forces outside his control — but Lee Jae Wook plays him with a delightfully cocky sense of entitlement combined with a strong, strong desire to reach his potential. He and Jung So Min play off of each other beautifully.
And So Much More
From the leadership at the mages’ compound (Songrim), including Yoo Joon Sang and Oh Na Ra, to the council of leaders who serve the current king – Jo Jae Yoon and Lee Do Kyung round out the table and NONE of them have wispy beards! – the cast is full of talent, and the characters are all full of life and motivations that make them fascinating to watch. The story is complex but rewarding so far, and it will be interesting to see where Mu Deok/Naksu and Jang Uk’s journey takes them.
Kmuse: This show has made it so even the annoying entitled Crown Prince is growing on me. There are so many great characters in this drama.
Karie the Maknae: The Hong Sisters excel at writing strong, interesting secondary characters, and Alchemy is absolutely full of them. I anticipate getting caught up in all of their stories — we have enough episodes to cover them all!
Would We Recommend?
Kmuse: I am enjoying the setup of this story so much that I am engaged even though I have had a very up and down relationship with Hong Sister dramas. Lee Jae Wook and Jung So Min’s acting styles are meshing perfectly and giving me that witty banter that I love in an OTP. The world-building is unique and detailed and I look forward to seeing how things work out. Will they maybe implode at the end….? Most likely, but I will have a ton of great memories to help distract me from the late plot negatives.
Karie the Maknae: I was actually surprised when I went through my drama list and realized how many Hong Sister dramas I’ve watched. With most of them, yes, I’ve been unimpressed by the ending, but they write characters that stick with me long after the drama is over. I intend to just sit back and enjoy the ride for as long as I can. If you’re satisfied with letting the story play out and enjoying the fantastic world building and amazing costuming, then Alchemy of Souls is the drama for you!
Until the next battle of wits and magic, we remain —
Kmuse & Karie the Maknae
Dramas with a Side of Kimchi