“Alchemy Of Souls” is a 2022 Korean Fantasy Drama streaming on Netflix that gives us an enthralling chronicle of mages in the country of Daeho. This fictional tale represents the mage families and their struggles to maintain peace in Daeho while dealing with politics, sorcery, and mages having wicked intentions. The ensemble of mages in the series has distinct personalities and remarkably different relationships with each other. The story begins with a soul shifter and ends with a soul shifter. The abandoned sorcery of ‘Alchemy of Souls’ ended up destroying the lives of many, but also gave us the most memorable and pivotal character of the series.
The only son of Jang Gang, the Gwanju of Cheonbugwan, Jang Uk, is one of the heirs of four major families. The heirs of four major families are called the “four seasons.” However, Jang Uk is different from the other three. His mother died after giving birth to him, and his father abandoned him. Jang Gang called Jang Uk an illegitimate child and cut off the energy flow that he was born with. Without the energy flow, Jang Uk was just a normal person and didn’t fit into the circle of mages. Yet, his friends Seo Yul and Park Dang Gu never let him feel like an outcast. Jang Uk often felt humiliated, but he was persistent in reopening his energy flow. He trained under every master in Daeho, but no one could open his energy flow because Jang Gang had told everyone not to.
Not even Jang Uk himself was aware of his powers, but he recognized Naksu in Mu Deok’s body when no one else could. He struggled to convince Mu Deok to become his master and had to go through deadly training before he could finally open his gate of energy. With the passing days, he became stronger, like he was fated to. Jang Gang, his previous masters, and Park Jin, all tried to keep Jang Uk away from his true potential, but he was born under the King’s star, which is a rare occurrence. Only the most powerful mages are born with the King’s star, but Jang Uk didn’t know about his true identity. He was stubborn and selfish at the beginning, but he changed after he met Mu Deok.
From a spoiled child who got all the luxuries in exchange for his loss of energy, Jang Uk grew tremendously into one of the finest mages in Daeho. Not only did he improve as a mage, but as a human as well. He learned to protect his people and to make difficult decisions when necessary. He fell in love with Mu Deok, overlooking her past as the assassin Naksu, and protected her. He gave up his hard-earned energy to protect Daeho from destruction, an action suitable for a king’s star. Despite his dramatic growth, it couldn’t be ignored that Jang Uk was born with a twisted fate. Jang Uk sacrificed his energy, and he had prepared to leave Songrim to live a peaceful life after marrying Mu Deok, but his wicked destiny made him die at his lover’s hands.
Jang Uk struggled most of his life to gain power, but he gave it all up so easily because he had Mu Deok by his side. He trusted Mu Deok until the very end and kept all the promises he had made to her. Mu Deok had become more important to him than his power, and respect, and validation from other mages. Mu Deok believed in him when no one else did, and that changed Jang Uk’s life forever. He didn’t look startled when Mu Deok killed him because he still had trust in her. He accepted his death only to protect Mu Deok, but there were no regrets in his eyes when he died at her hands. However, he is a king’s star with an ice stone inside him, and he has been reborn from the ashes like a phoenix. He is going to come back stronger than ever to seek revenge on those who wrecked his and his fiancée’s lives.
Mu Deok/Naksu/Bu Yeon
The protagonist, Naksu is a skilled assassin and a mage who shifts her soul to a girl and loses all her powers. She believed she would retain her powers, but she had accidentally shifted into a body that she did not intend to. It is the body of a blind girl named Mu Deok, but Naksu can see with her eyes. It is unusual, but more unusual things happen in her life in no time. She gets sold to a brothel in Songrim, and Jang Uk catches her stealing his plaque. Jang Uk brought her home as his maid, but he had different intentions. He had figured out that she was a soul shifter and had confirmed with her that she was Naksu. He made a deal with Mu Deok to take the role of his master, and a remarkable relationship developed between them.
While working as Jang Uk’s maid, Mu Deok also trained Jang Uk as a master. Her only intention was to gain energy with the help of Jang Uk after he became powerful. She was ruthless as a master, but she was the reason Jang Uk could open his flow of energy. Nonetheless, there were many things that Mu Deok didn’t know about herself. The body she was living in belonged to Jin Bu Yeon, the lost daughter of Jinyowon. Bu Yeon was blind, but she was a powerful priestess who could sense and control her surroundings. Ideally, she should have died when she shifted souls with the injured Naksu, but she didn’t let go of her body. Both Naksu and Bu Yeon’s souls lived in Mu Deok’s body, while the latter’s soul was suppressed after Naksu entered her body. Bu Yeon was washed away in a village and lost her memories after Jin Mu manipulated her energy when she was just a kid and left her to die.
Mu Deok called herself a poison for Jang Uk and warned him to not fall in love with her. She always believed that love was a weakness, but in the end, she gave up her golden chance to get her power back, only to save Jang Uk from dying. Naksu was manipulated by Jin Mu since she was a child who had turned into an assassin to kill mages, lying to her that they had killed her father. Naksu lived her life with vengeful feelings, but she was finally ready to leave it all behind and live a happy married life with Jang Uk as Mu Deok. However, Jin Mu showed up to ruin her life once again. Jin Mu figured out Mu Deok was Naksu and hypnotized her to kill the mages again. In the end, he made her run wild, and she got petrified. She jumped into the lake to kill herself after killing her lover. Her life as Naksu was pitiful, but her death as Mu Deok was agonizing.
The Seo family is a family of intellectuals, and Seo Yul is the eldest son of this generation of the Seo family. Yul is also a genius and has mastered many spells ahead of his peers. He is disciplined and strict. His serious attitude makes him look intimidating and competitive, but he has a softer nature and helps those in need all the time. He is the ideal person with power who believes it to be his responsibility to use his power for the welfare of others. He is childhood friends with Jang Uk and Park Dang Gu, and they know him better than anyone else. His auntie is the queen of Daeho, which makes Yul cousin with the crown prince.
Seo Yul is the only one who actually knew Naksu prior to her becoming an assassin. She was his friend from Danhyanggok, where he used to go birdwatching during his teenage years. Both of them liked each other, but Naksu cut off contact with him after finding out about his family. He only found out that she was the assassin Naksu after her dead body was found with a soul shifter’s mark on it. His instincts made him doubt Mu Deok, and he eventually found his old friend Naksu in Mu Deok. Only twice did Seo Yul break a rule in his life: first, when he saved Jang Uk from getting punished when they were kids, and second, by hiding Mu Deok’s secret. He softened up for Mu Deok because he still saw Naksu in her, but he also supported Jang Uk and Mu Deok’s relationship, letting go of his feelings.
Yul was a great friend who could hurt his friends if it was for their good. He was not expressive about his emotions, but he often put himself in danger for those he cared for. He was heartbroken when Naksu was petrified, and Jang Uk died, but he couldn’t help any of them. He had already anticipated this, yet he couldn’t stop it from happening. He even tried to separate Jang Uk and Mu Deok to keep both of them safe, but ultimately, he could only shed tears for his lost friends.
The Crown Prince
The crown prince, Go Won, is the only child of the King and, naturally, the next King of Daeho. He is similar in age to Uk, Yul, and Dang Gu, but he didn’t have a friend until he met Jang Uk, who became his ‘frenemy’. The crown prince’s master is Jin Mu, who has been closely associated with the royal family, acting as their security. The crown prince is full of pride, but he is level-headed when it comes to reasoning and doesn’t let his ego meddle in his decisions. Mu Deok was the only one who would treat the prince just like a normal person while also respecting him as a prince. She would listen to his petty complaints like a friend.
The prince would often act immature but acted rationally when it came to serious matters. He didn’t trust his parents and his master blindly regarding the issue of the soul shifter. He doubted them and investigated them secretly. The prince is still young and doesn’t understand politics much, but he is a quick learner. His best quality is his rationality. It is evident when he doesn’t jump to conclusions just by listening to one side of the story. He is the third person who falls in love with Mu Deok, and he shows true chivalry by not holding onto her. As a prince, his one command could force Mu Deok to leave everything behind and live with him, but he understood Mu Deok’s love for Jang Uk and didn’t force her to be with him.
Park Dang Gu
Nephew of Park Jin and the next leader of Songrim, Park Dang Gu is a meticulously stylish guy whose appearance is too modern for his era. He has blonde hair and wears flashy clothes and fancy earrings. He is a skilled mage but is rather relaxed and playful, in contrast to Seo Yul. He is a loyal friend who would rather lose a battle and humiliate himself than see his friend get punished. Dang Gu was the most youthful in his friend circle, and his friends did not expect him to be the first one to get married and with his first love, at that as he was secretive about his love life.
Dang Gu loved Jin Cho Yeon since childhood, but he started dating her pretty late. Their relationship was opposed by both the families as Dang Gu is supposed to lead Songrim in the future, and Cho Yeon is bound to lead Jinyowon as she comes from a matriarchal family. They rebelled against their families, and the families finally accepted their relationship on common grounds. Dang Gu is a happy-go-lucky person, and life has always favored him.
Jin Cho Yeon
The youngest daughter of Jinyowon, Jin Cho Yeon, is a powerful mage just like her mother. The Jin family practices matriarchy and is the only major family led by a woman. Jinyowon’s soldiers are also women. Cho Yeon has grown up with a strict mother and an absent father who has been searching for Cho Yeon’s older sister, Bu Yeon, for ten years. Cho Yeon thinks that her mother only loves Bu Yeon and ignores her. Cho Yeon was engaged to Jang Uk, but the marriage fell apart when they found out that Uk had no energy flow and was only marrying Cho Yeon to gain power.
Cho Yeon didn’t get a chance to shine as a mage, as we could only see her as an attention-seeking child, afraid of her mother, and a daydreamer who searched for love outside because she couldn’t get it in her family. Thankfully, she met Dang Gu, who not only loves her but also protects and supports her.
Park Jin is the leader of Songrim and holds more power than any other mage family in Daeho. Apart from being a leader, he is an extraordinary mage who mastered difficult spells at a young age. He is the closest friend of Jang Gang and knows every secret, including Jang Uk’s birth. Park Jin had always been strict with Jang Uk and strongly opposed opening his gate of energy because only he knew why Jang Gang closed it in the first place. Cold-hearted as he may seem, he cared about Jang Uk the most and treated him like his own son.
Songrim was in charge of sorcery inspection, and hence, they would often deal with soul shifters. Songrim made many enemies because of it, but Park Jin has many trustworthy people around him, who make him and Songrim stronger. He was a tough leader, but he was slow to understand his feelings. His first love was Jang Uk’s mother, but she married his best friend, Jang Gang. He later fell for Kim Do Ju, who was in love with Jang Gang in the past, but Park Jin didn’t approach her, thinking she was still in love with him.
A skilled mage who ruined his own life due to sorcery. Jang Gang was the Gwanju of Cheonbugwan and belonged to one of the four main families of Daeho. He was intelligent, and that is what led to his destruction. He learned the alchemy of souls from a shaman’s guidebook and also learned to make soul ejectors, the deadliest weapon to haunt Daeho in the coming years. He used alchemy to save dying Bu Yeon and the second time, he couldn’t disobey the king and had to perform alchemy. Jang Gang shifted souls with the sick King, who wanted to give birth to his heir and needed a younger body. Jang Gang had no idea that the King intended to have a child with his wife, and that’s when he regretted learning the alchemy of souls.
The real reason he abandoned Jang Uk and told everyone that he was not his son is that if the people knew about Uk being born with the King’s star, it would have led to more secrets coming out and threatening Uk’s life. Unknowingly, Jang Gang’s one mistake was going to ensue mayhem in Daeho, and teach Jin Mu the sorcery of soul shifting. Jin Mu was Jang Gang’s assistant, who turned out to be the greatest evil that Daeho had ever seen. Jang Gang was intelligent, but his curiosity got the best of him. In the end, he sacrificed himself as repentance for all his mistakes and to save his peers from all the trouble they had gone through for years because of him. However, he could have lived and helped his son and friends fight against Jin Mu, but he petrified himself as he was too ashamed of his life.
The embodiment of evil, Jin Mu is a vile mage who is an illegitimate child of Jinyowon. He was never accepted in Jinyowon, but Jang Gang took him in as his assistant. Jang Gang trusted Jin Mu, but he turned out to be greedy and became disastrous. He made soul ejectors and killed many innocent people. Jin Mu was trained by Jang Gang in magic, but more than that, he had an exceptional ability to manipulate people and use them for his benefit. He managed to manipulate Naksu, Shaman Choi, and Lady Jin and later turned his back on all of them.
Jin Mu is persistent, and when everything fell apart for him, he tried to manipulate the prince by instilling fear in him. However, he was only able to do it partially, but it was enough for him as he had other wicked ways to get what he wanted. He believes sorcery should be legal and for it, he caused great chaos in Daeho. He needed the ice stone from Jang Uk and used Mu Deok for it. This was the second time he ruined Naksu’s life. Jin Mu is one ridiculously lucky person who somehow got away with his crimes, but his sins are way too much and, ideally, his end is near.
“Alchemy Of Souls” is a 2022 South Korean Fantasy Series streaming on Netflix with subtitles.