This was a different fantasy, set in another world, Eidendel, that features ways of using "Alchemy," aka a kind of scientific magic, to create all kinds of things, even creatures and people.
Simon Frost is a young Animist in training, but he's nothing like his mad-alchemist father, who's known for his Animist rule-bending tendencies. Simon wants to distance himself from his father as much as possible, so he sticks strictly to the rules, working in the mai lroom. He faints on his one and only field mission.
Increasingly, Simon's getting the idea he's never going to rise in the Animists' hierarchy, precisely because of who his father is. Of course, there's a bully, Brenner, who's rising fast in the ranks of the Eidendel Animist police (for lack of a better word), who won't let Simon forget his father's nefarious reputation.
So when a message arrives, a plea for help from a distant town Simon remembers his mother visiting once, he takes the plunge and leaves the mail room, traveling to the town to help the people with his limited Animist knowledge.
Before he gets there, however, he passes a kind of pod, from which something obviously emerged, at the base of a Gaokerena tree. He doesn't know what to make of it.
The village is being terrorized by a monster that's killed a few of its people, but Simon finds a creature far more interesting -- a young girl, Alice, part human with eight tentacles instead of legs. She's not sure how she got to the village, or where she's from, or anything, really, just that the villagers attacked her.
Simon gets the idea to take her to his father, who might be able to help her. While they escape the villages, they rush into a new danger, and Simon learns his father didn't just bend the rules -- he and his mother broke them, horrifically.
I won't say any more or I'll spoil it, but this was a refreshingly different fantasy read.