The Alchemist of Souls (Angry Robot) Paperback – 5 Apr 2012
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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, author of The Sword of Albion
About the Author
Anne Lyle was born in what is known to the tourist industry as Robin Hood Country , and grew up fascinated by English history, folklore, and swashbuckling heroes. Unfortunately there was little demand in 1970s Nottingham for diminutive female swordswomen, so she studied sensible subjects like science and languages instead. It appears that although you can take the girl out of Sherwood Forest, you can t take Sherwood Forest out of the girl. She now spends every spare hour writing (or at least planning) fantasy fiction about spies, actors, outlaws and other folk on the fringes of society. Her Night s Masque series is set in an alternate history Elizabethan England, where the Virgin Queen married and had children while fanged and tattooed creatures from the New World walk the streets of London. Anne lives in Cambridge, a city full of medieval and Tudor buildings where cattle graze on the common land much as they did in Shakespeare s London.
Top Customer Reviews
Maliverny Catlyn, down-on-his-luck swordsman and secret Catholic, is desperate for money to treat his sick brother. He is plucked from the streets for reasons unknown to him and appointed as the bodyguard to the Skrayling ambassador as he judges a series of completely plays written to honour his visit. It is in this capacity that he meets Jacob Hendricks, the young tireman of a company of travelling players, who has secrets of his own. Conspiracy and counter-conspiracy weave around Mal and Coby, and the skraylings and the nobility are in the thick of it, tangled in a dangerous game that could cost Mal more than his life.
Tudor-era settings seem to be under-used in fantasy, which is a shame, because when they're done well, as they are in "Alchemist of Souls", they add a rich extra depth to the genre. Lyle brings life to the grimy back-alleys, the theatres and the taverns of alt-Elizabethan London in a way that's totally convincing, and her characters - financially-embarrassed Mal, luckless Ned, shy, secretive Coby - are full and fascinating (I'd also like to add a small "mmmm" for the cover ;) ).Read more ›
This, of course does not make it a bad book, in fact it adds to it a thousand fold. The decision to set the story in a different time than the normal middle ages gives it a freshness that might sometimes be lacking, while the skraylings give the world a more unearthly feel, an alien presence that is different to may other fantasy standards.
The book itself is set in and around London, at a time when a long serving monarch has gone into semi-seclusion following the death of a beloved husband, echoes perhaps of our worlds Queen Victoria. It is a time of sweeping change, with the faith of the country being unsettled as England has been torn from the Catholicism of Rome by Henry VIII and vacillated one way and then the other by succesive monarchs; the world itself is opening up with the discovery and advancement toward the New World, but it is not just the native Americans that have been found...
The story is well told, with small twists coming throughout and it took me a while to see which way the story was going to go, which is a good thing. The characters are well drawn and enjoyable, and not once did I get frustrated with them.
Lyle has imbued her version of Elizabethan London with enough depth that it feels real, and you get to live the life quite nicely, with throw away lines about fleas in clothes and toilets being emptied into streets.Read more ›
Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is seconded to the ambassador's bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally - and Mal Catlyn his soul.
Maliverny 'Mal' Catyln is a suitably heroic sort and he certainly typifies what you would expect from an Elizabethan dashing blade. Driven to protect Queen and country, he throws himself into his role and won't let anything stop him. Mal has a roguish charm and his mix of easy manner and strong resolve make him a perfect protagonist.
Though Mal is an interesting lead, there were a couple of other characters that I was more taken with. Coby is a teenage girl who is forced to live her life pretending to be a boy, calling herself Jacob, in order to survive on her own. She is intelligent, inquisitive and has a quick wit. It struck me that she was far more sensible, and likeable, than the vast majority of her male contemporaries. The other character who struck a chord is Ned Faulkner, Mal's best friend. I've not read a lot of fantasy fiction that features an openly gay character and I liked the dynamic that exists between Ned and Mal. There is an unrequited love that has a genuinely bittersweet air. Through Cody and Ned the author gets the chance to deliver some subtle, yet insightful, commentary on the nature of gender politics and sexuality in the 16th century.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A great mix of fantasy and history - original and fun. The great thing about this is that it brings an existing myth - that of the Skraylings - to vivid life.Published on 2 Jan. 2014 by Md Lachlan
This was my first foray into historical fantasy, and if all of it is this good I'm going to have to read a lot more of it. Read morePublished on 15 Dec. 2013 by Erica
I was fooled into reading this book as I'd enjoyed other 'urban fantasy' authors. Utter tosh. Won't get fooled again.Published on 31 Oct. 2013 by Amazon Customer
A beautifully written alternative-history fantasy. It has the same sense of place that Neal Stephenson achieved in his Quicksilver trilogy, bringing Elizabethan London wonderfully... Read morePublished on 7 Aug. 2013 by Stephen West
I enjoyed the story of Mal. He was a hero after my own taste and I'll most definitely buy the next two books in this trilogy. Read morePublished on 7 July 2013 by Katharina Gerlach (Indie Autorin)
It's the Elizabethan era, but not as we know it. Queen Elizabeth's mourning the death of her husband Robert Dudley but takes comfort in her sons Prince Robert (who effectively... Read morePublished on 28 April 2013 by I Read, Therefore I Blog
I won & read this book over the summer, and loved it a lot. I noticed it on a shelf in a local bookstore today, and realised I never reviewed it. Read morePublished on 22 Feb. 2013 by Ailsa
I like me a bit of historical fantasy and was pleased to discover that this one is well-written and very entertaining. Read morePublished on 18 Feb. 2013 by Cathy Hill
Whenever I see the expression `Fantasy/Urban Fantasy/ScFi, I cringe. I avoid those genres like the plague. Read morePublished on 10 Feb. 2013 by Vic Kite