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The Alchemist of Souls: Night's Masque, Volume 1 Mass Market Paperback – March 27, 2012
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"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
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
And of course, I'm a sucker for any story where a girl disguises herself as a boy, so naturally Coby was my favorite character. I thought the romance between her and Mal grew naturally and added an extra dimension to the story. Between their growing attraction, and Mal's concern for his brother Sandy, the character relationships were quite deep and carried the main force of the story.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I am definitely going to read the next part of the series!
England, during the time of Elizabeth I, is introduced to Skralings. These beings from the new world are intelligent and strong. England wants them for allies, so when the Skraling ambassador arrives for a visit, Mal Catlyn is assigned as his bodyguard. For personal reasons, Mal is not at all keen on the job. But he needs the money. And really, it's pretty much an order, not a request. The question is 'Why?'
Part of the ambassador's duties in England are judging plays in a contest of three theatre companies. This is how we are introduced to Jacob (Coby) Hendricks. Coby is a young woman masquerading as a boy who works behind the scenes for one of the theatre companies. Coby is smart, hardworking, forever afraid of being discovered, and yet wishing she could just be a girl.
Other reviewers describe Coby as a secondary character, but to me her role was just as important as the role of Mal Catlyn. And despite her youth, her character was as much the heroine as Mal was the hero. Throughout the book, Mal's and Coby's lives intertwine in many ways leading up to a climactic rescue from the bad guys!
There is a lot going on in this novel. There are the Skralings, who have beliefs which do not agree with England's Protestant state religion. As a reader of historical fiction, I often experience settings where religion is governed fiercely. This makes me appreciate separation of church and state! The activity surrounding the play production is a large part of the story, which I really enjoyed. Politics and intrigue loom throughout the tale, making for a complex and fascinating read.
I hope to learn more about the Skralings in the next installment. Luckily, this is not a new series, so I can download The Merchant of Dreams today! I say again, I am so glad I discovered this series!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I admit I'm in a bored phase of reading right now. I am feeling a little desperate for something that can hold my interest. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Estarianne
Enjoyable, but nothing special. I enjoyed it, but it didn't hook me in enough to make me want to read the rest of the series.Published 4 months ago by Ellen Mason
Plot line is weak and slow. Should be listed in the gay/lesbian genre.Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
I would give this book a solid 2.5 stars if I could. For me it was pretty much exactly "middle of the road" fair, given all the parts that made it suck and all the parts that made... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Adrienne A. Porter
Good characters some twists with the plot. Liked the period it is written for.Published 12 months ago by Warreen
My favorite part of this book was the fact that it was set in an alternate version of Elizabethan England. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Emily Randolph-Epstein
This novel has everything: heroes, villains, spies, the glory and tawdryness of Elizabethan theater, sword fights and an alien people come to London to further diplomatic... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Jessamy Zagel Trisler