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The Alchemist of Souls: Night's Masque, Volume 1 Mass Market Paperback – March 27, 2012

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The Alchemist of Souls: Night's Masque, Volume 1 + The Merchant of Dreams: Night's Masque, Volume 2 + The Prince of Lies: Night's Masque, Volume 3
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Product Details

  • Series: Night's Masque (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Angry Robot (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857662147
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857662149
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,049,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Nominee for the Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer

"Impressive... With an effective mix of espionage, backstage drama, and mystery, Lyle provides compelling drama in an intriguing setting." - Publishers Weekly

"In her debut, The Alchemist of Souls, Anne Lyle creates an alternate Elizabethan England done right. A world where history meets fantasy in the streets, and where neither emerges unscathed. With a twisting plot, endearing characters, fast-paced action, and truly unique and alien "fey", Lyle steps up and gives notice to the genre. No wilting faerie queens and tortured knights here: this is how historical fantasy gets dirty. A great first installment in a promising new series." - Douglas Hulick, acclaimed author of Among Thieves

"Anne Lyle's Alchemist of Souls teems with intrigue and magic worthy of the Bard himself, all set against the backdrop of Elizabethan London. The attention to historical detail brings the time and place alive and peoples it with characters I could instantly empathize with. An outstanding debut!" - Lynn Flewelling

“In her terrific debut novel, Anne Lyle conjures up a magical Elizabethan England of seedy glamour, long shadows, pulsating romance and heart-stopping adventure. The Alchemist of Souls is the calling card of a great new talent in the fantasy field.” - Mark Chadbourn

“Anne Lyle’s fluid writing brilliantly evokes the heady and gritty atmosphere of her alternate Shakespearean London – from the day-to-day life of theatre troupes to the pomp of official ceremonies.” - Aliette de Bodard

About the Author

Anne Lyle is a website developer and debut author from Nottinghamshire, England. She has an active website, attends UK conventions and is a dedicated Twitter user. The author lives in Cambridge, UK.

More About the Author

Anne Lyle was born in what is popularly known as "Robin Hood Country", and grew up fascinated by English history, folklore, and swashbuckling heroes. Unfortunately there was little demand in 1970s Nottinghamshire for diminutive swordswomen, so she studied sensible subjects like science and languages instead.

It appears, however, that although you can take the girl out of Sherwood Forest, you can't take Sherwood Forest out of the girl. She now spends practically every waking hour writing - or at least planning - fantasy fiction about dashing swordsmen and scheming spies, set in imaginary pasts or parallel worlds.

Her particular obsession is Elizabethan England, so it helps that she now lives in a city full of medieval and Tudor buildings where the cattle browse on the common land much as they did in Shakespeare's London. She prides herself on being able to ride a horse, sew a sampler and cut a quill pen but hasn't the least idea how to drive one of those new-fangled automobile thingies.

Paradoxically she is a big fan of 21st century technology, being a Mac geek and full-time web developer. Well, it's the nearest thing you can get to magic in our own universe...

Customer Reviews

Main characters are very likable.
JoAnn Roa
The plot is fascinating, the writing beautiful, the characters interesting, believable and all true to the strangely familiar world that Anne Lyle creates around them.
The Alchemist of Souls is a book that will appeal to both fans of fantasy and of historical fiction.
W.M.M. van der Salm-Pallada

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Justin Landon on March 27, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Before I became re-enamored with fantasy, I was an avid reader of historical fiction (or as I like to call it -- fantasy for people who don't want to be seen reading fantasy). I read Shogun (Clavell), Pride of Carthage (Durham), Musashi (Yoshikawa), Gates of Fire (Pressfield), and their ilk. It's exciting to me now when I come across a fantasy concoction that blends that historical sensibility with the speculative. Anne Lyle's debut novel is just that kind of brew. Set in historical Elizabethan England, Alchemist of Souls shows what might have happened if the Virgin Queen had children, secured her rule, and made an alliance with a heretofore undiscovered alien race from the New World.

Lyle's protagonist is Mal Catlyn, a down on his luck swordsman with a checkered past and an unfortunate family connection to Catholicism. The skraylings, a new race from the New World, have been allied with England for a generation, but an ambassador had yet to treat with the Queen. With word of the first skrayling delegation, Mal is hand picked, rather unexpectedly, to serve as bodyguard during the controversial visit. Assassination attempts are the least of his concern as layers of espionage and political jockeying begin to pull him in unexpected directions.

Along with the intrigue, Lyle sets the stage with a tournament of stage performances in honor of the ambassador's visit. Put on by the three most esteemed theater troops in London, the tournament becomes a set piece for the larger story. The theater sections are told mostly through the eyes of Coby, a young woman hiding behind men's clothing, and connects to Mal's thread through his friend Ned, a scribe with a penchant for theater men. Between the three of them they'll be asked to prevent a conspiracy at the core of the monarchy.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Carebare on October 26, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Overall not a bad story. I got through the first third fine, but then sort of lost interest and skipped through the rest. If you are truly out of other things to read, I recommend to give it a try but don't hold great expectations. I have to agree with the other reviewers on the following points:

1. The ending was a let down. It left me a bit confused.
2. The reader only gets to superficially know the characters. I wanted to like the main character, but I ended up not really caring about him or the rest of them. And looking back at how Mal is described or portrayed, doesn't really jive with some of his actions and age. Like why did a loyal and militarily-obedient Mal run away from the law at the beginning, and ditch his friend?
3. The novel has a lot of words but could use more substance. I ended up skimming through a lot of the book. I feel like a lot of avenues didn't really get explored, like Mal's relationships with the ambassador or love interest. It didn't live up to the potential.
4. The plot wasn't all that original for me. The concept reminded me a lot of CJ Cherryh's Foreigner books. CJ Cherryh has A LOT more words to sift through, but also more depth and substance.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By TJ Gamache on January 30, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An interesting but not character-driven story. The writing is strong overall, but is hurt by the focus on gender and sexual confusion. There are several moments when such sexual themes pull the reader entirely out of the story.
Anne Lyle shows very good to great ability, but would benefit from a stronger, unbiased editor. Despite being a milieu novel, there is a surprising lack of character development and pace. Perhaps a stronger hand at the editing wheel would elevate Anne's significant gift for writing to a higher tier.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 5, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Imagine if the New World explorers brought back something even more amazing in their journeys: not just chocolate or tobacco, but a different race of humans. In this fantasy version of history, Skraylings are a race of creatures encountered in the expanding British Empire, and the world will never be the same. Mal Catlyn is the star of this book, and has found himself as a bodyguard to the Skrayling Ambassador. His life becomes even more complected as assassination threats are not his only worry.
The book does a great job of setting the environment and making it really feel like sixteenth century London. I loved how the book feels very original in its concepts. It is hard to do historical fantasy like this, but to take it and make it your own is an accomplishment. The book does start off very slow, but eventually picks up the pace for an climatic ending. The lack of the excitement at the beginning really hurts the book. The story is very character driven, and as the story progressed, I found myself more emotionally tied to these characters. With a deep understanding of history and a perfect blend of magic, this series is off to a great start.

*Originally published for San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review*
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. Galford on April 8, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Whenever I hear the words “historical fantasy,” I confess one name tends to leap to mind: Guy Gavriel Kay. Having only recently (geologically speaking) been introduced to the cult of this literary great, I confess that he has given the genre new life in my eyes, and laid a rather hefty level for other participants to aspire to.

This said, The Alchemist of Souls is one of these aspirants, being set in the Elizabethan era—an era utterly ripe for adventure, politicking, or general miscreantism of any sort. This being a stand-alone (another oh-so-glorious rarity amongst its kind), it’s not a book that can stand to waste any time; nor does it. It puts us at the time of the grand American discovery, in the shoes of the unfortunate Mal, a (well I suppose that’s pretty standard) once grandiose swordsman reduced to mercenary work, chiefly as the bodyguard to the Skrayling ambassador—a people discovered in the aforementioned New World.

The Skraylings are also where the magical/fantastical elements come in, as these folk are possessed of some rather strange capabilities therein. Unfortunately, Mal discovers those abilities may provide some hazard rather contrary to the whole…ambassadorial thing. Join him with another classic trope of a scheming girl masquerading as a boy, and some all around plotting, and the recipe is set for some fine adventurous dining.

In spite of some traditional elements, however, The Alchemist of Souls proves that a dash of “cliché” need not mean an instant rolling of the eyes—it constantly takes those traditional elements and turns them on their head. It plays with the classics and brings them to delightful ends; cliché does not become a lack of detail, for it is a world of details.
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