The Alchemist of Souls (Night's Masque, #1)
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The Alchemist of Souls (Night's Masque #1)

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  816 ratings  ·  177 reviews
When Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods--and a skrayling ambassador--to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital?

Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is seconded...more
Mass Market Paperback, 518 pages
Published March 27th 2012 by Angry Robot (first published January 1st 2012)
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Sword and Laser Fantasy List
158th out of 583 books — 825 voters
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Xenophon Hendrix
This is a combination fantasy and alternate history. The setting is Elizabethan England, but in addition to American Indians, the New World is the residence of a humanoid species called skraylings, the name doubtless inspired by the Norse sagas. Furthermore, Queen Elizabeth in the author's world is widowed and has two sons.

Aside from the alternate history, fantasy plays an important but not dominant role in the story. There are no wizards slinging fireballs around, but a couple magical events ar...more
Ben Babcock
Now this is how you write a novel!

I love fiction set in Tudor and Elizabethan England. It seems an era particularly rich in epic, empire-spanning events and internal religious and royal conflict. If an author can make historical figures come alive and explore the emotions and motivations that might have been involved in these intrigues, the resultant novel can be an intense, interesting invocation of history. This era is also a rich source of inspiration for historical fantasy, and sometimes eve...more
This is another review that I've put off writing because I'm still feeling rather ranty about it.

My problems with this book don't really lie with the story, but with the vocabulary.

I have issues with the word whilst. It's fine in dialogue as long as it's used sparingly, but I can't stand when it's used as a descriptive.

This book used the word whilst SIXTY TIMES (and more than once it was used TWICE IN THE SAME SENTENCE). Yes, I went back and counted after I had finished. I tried to read the seco...more
I just cannot rate this book - not because I didn't enjoy it (I did) but because I just can't slot it into my usual genres. It was trying to be too much of whichever genre it felt like being at whichever moment.

It began as an Historical Mystery (being generous here), then whoops, Elizabeth is a widow with two sons! OK - Alternative Historical Mystery. Hero (Mal), a down at heel mercenary picking up jobs whenever, who has a friend (or not) in Ned, a possible ne'er-do-well, who happens to 'have fe...more
The cover got me. It really did. And two stars is a perhaps a slightly unfair rating. The idea is good. I like the world; it's an interesting what if. The problem is that the relationships between the characters is so, so flat. There is suppose to be a romance, and I just don't buy that the two characters are even in lust.

And I'm sorry, while Coby is an interesting character, she is also a very contrived character. She's seventeen so we won't feel icky, but she hasn't had her monthly yet?

Yet, L...more
My interest in Alchemist of Souls was first sparked when I came across a comment describing the novel as a ‘terrific mashup of George R. R. Martin meets Shakespeare’. I may have paraphrased that comment somewhat but coming from Anne Lyle’s editor, that is quite high-praise indeed. Now, I’ve dabbled with both Martin and Shakespeare in my reading and I’ve liked what I’ve read so my curiosity was peeked on reading that comment. So I immediately went to the Angry Robot Army site to see if my eARC fo...more
A sweeping story that engrossed me on many levels, THE ALCHEMIST OF SOULS kept me guessing with nuanced characters, unexpected world building, and a fascinating blend of real and imagined history. The switching view points expertly kept several plots in the air at once, and I would be hard pressed to choose which of the several charming lead characters emerged as my favorite overall.

Mal and Coby are both admirable and vulnerable by turns, but the author never betrays their soft spots for cheap...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I had trouble getting into this book initially, but then I got caught up in the plots and counter-plots and other plotting going on. Unfortunately, I found the ending a little flat. While all the main plot threads were tied off, there is still clearly a lot more to be uncovered.

I also had trouble working up my enthusiasm for the characters but I think that is more to do with my mood when I was reading this book than the author's skills.

All in all, a very good debut novel and I'll be picking up...more
C2012. I am quickly coming around to the point of view that Angry Robot just never gets it wrong. This book was great and I am squealing with joy that I have found another author to follow although I suppose that I am in for a wait for the next book in the (hopefully) series. I found it interesting that Mark Chadbourne’s recommendation was put on the front cover. His books cover a similar time period and also involves an alternative history. I enjoy his books so his recommendation certainly help...more
An impeccably-researched alt-history set late in Queen Elizabeth I's reign.

In this world there are two main points of difference. Elizabeth married and bore two sons, and there is a race of people called "skraylings" who come from Vinland (Newfoundland). Presumably this is a play on 'skraeling', which is what the Norse called Greenland and Vinland's Native Americans, although this book's skraelings are non-humans with fangs and vestigial tails. England has an important alliance with (the main cl...more
Melinda Le Baron
All I can say is Wow! This book is so utterly amazing in the seamless way it blends real history with imaginative elements that if you hadn't read your history books it would be believable that people like Mal Catlyn and Skaylings existed. Of course the Queen of adding people to historical novels is Dorothy Dunnett, but Ms. Lyle had a harder job, as she not only had to add people to history, but change history as wel,with Elizabeth I marriage to Dudley and the discovery of the Skraylings in the...more
Another miss for me. This time I gave it more than 100 pages, though, so I feel it got a fair shake.

The premise looks great- an alternate history set during the reign of Elizabeth I, with "skraylings" here from the New World instead of our Native Americans. Maybe a bit of magic, too?

The setting was fine. I felt that the author inserted details a bit clumsily in order to give an authentic period flavor. At one point our hero is accosted by two anonymous lordlings (why? just to give vague threats-...more
Fantasy Review Barn

If I just throw out my random thoughts about this book could someone do all the work and put it into a cohesive review? Because I have honestly tried three times, and have deleted everything I wrote each time. So here are my thoughts, and feel free to email the review back to me when you’re done. K? Thanks!

-Wow, totally thought this was a first contact book based on the blurb, but really it deals with two cultures still feeling each other out, but with strong trade ties alread...more
The Good: I really enjoyed the story of this book. I enjoyed the skraylings, and particularly the character of the ambassador. I thought each of the ideas behind the human characters were interesting as well, and had a lot of potential. Mal in particular I found had some depth and layers to him, and the multiple conflicts he found himself in led to a well-rounded character.

The Not so Good: But...I really struggled with the writing of this book. I liked Coby as an idea, but literally every single...more
Anne Lyle’s The Alchemist of Souls follows the adventures of Catholic swordsman-turned-spy Maliverny Catlyn through Elisabethan London with a twist.

Mal, his friend Ned Faulkner and cross-dressing seamstress Coby Hendricks, find themselves at the heart of political intrigue during the visit to England of the Ambassador of the Skraylings, a fay-like race from the New World.

I’m going to keep plot details at that because it is really too good a book to spoil. Let me just say there is swashbuckling-n...more
I had originally planned to start this review by with some kind of reference to this being a good example of why people should pay more attention to female authors in the SFF community, but I realised I was doing this book a disservice. This is a quality read and the gender of the author has nothing to do with that. I was always going to read this book as I’ve followed (not stalked, honest) Anne Lyle for a while on Twitter. A nice person who espouses interesting views does not always equate to a...more
I received this through a Goodreads giveaway – a nice surprise during the holidays.

There was so much good in this book that I really wanted to like it more. The writing, the characters, the setting, the dialogue – all were handled beautifully. But that just disappointed me more when the novel started to unravel toward the end. When you build a story up to a high pitch of excitement, you’ve got to deliver a rousing finish. And this book just didn’t follow through enough. What can I say? It stumb...more
April Steenburgh
There is no way to decline a direct assignment from the Throne, so when Mal is ordered to be the bodyguard of the Skrayling Ambassador, the chief representative of a New World race he detests, he will have to work to get his feelings under control and learn to defend what he would rather avoid.

As he spends more time in Skrayling company, and grows oddly fond of the small, gentle Ambassador, Mal will have to work to juggle his duty to the crown, to the Skrayling, and to his own blood- and those i...more
Carolyn (Book Chick City)
Guest Reviewed by Julia from 'All Things Urban Fantasy' for - 7/10 on the blog.

A sweeping story that engrossed me on many levels, "The Alchemist of Souls" kept me guessing with nuanced characters, unexpected world building, and a fascinating blend of real and imagined history. The switching view points expertly kept several plots in the air at once, and I would be hard pressed to choose which of the several charming lead characters emerged as my favorite overall.

Mal and Cob...more
Aleksander Cristea
The Alchemist Of Souls, written by Anne Lyle, is a book I spotted on several occasions during my search on Amazon for new and exciting fantasy books. It is also a book I am ashamed to admit I discounted several times. The reason was simple: The Alchemist of Souls is historical fantasy and I had never, until I read it, given the genre a go. Instead, I had this weird concept that I wouldn’t like it.

Now I sit here wondering what the hell I was thinking.

There are few books that I have loved as much...more
Leo Elijah Cristea
Review originally posted at:

I’ll start by saying this is the first book from this imprint I’ve read; mainly as I’d never really heard of Angry Robot Books before (shame on me!). The majority of the titles I read have been published by Orbit, Gollancz, and Tor, and since I am fairly new to alternate history fantasy, or historical fantasy (a particular flavour that seems very common to the imprint) it’s not a surprise to me that this is my first.

And what a...more
I picked this book up based on its cover. I do that sometimes, even though I know I'm not supposed to, and sometimes I regret it. Not this time, though: The Alchemist of Souls is a fantastic read.

When I'm writing reviews, I like to look at the four aspects of a story (plot, characters, setting, and prose) and pick which was the best and which was the worst. Alchemist has no worst, and picking the best is difficult.

The story follows three characters: Mal Catlyn, the down-at-the-heels swordsman of...more
Malivery "Mal" Catlyn lives in an Elizabeth England that differs from our own history in three notable ways: the kingdom is more slanted towards the Anglican church, Elizabeth married Robert Dudley and had two sons and (most significantly) English explorers in the New World encountered the advanced civilization of an entirely different race (Skraylings), many of whom have since traveled to England to establish business there.

Mal is from a noble family but has little do with the court until he is...more
I was lucky enough to get my paws on this early, thanks to a competition on the Angry Robot blog. It comes enthusiastically blurbed - and with good reason.

The story centres around Mal Catlyn, a delicious rogue with a heart of gold (calm yourself, ladies) who finds himself playing the bodyguard for a delegation of skraylings - supernatural beings in this magical version of Elizabethan England. Mal's new job guarding the skrayling ambassador quickly lands him knee-deep in intrigue and assassinatio...more
Wow! Lyle created a parallel world set in Elizabethan Era.
Brilliant world building, intriguing story... cant wait for the next book!


To be honest I kind of stumbled over this book, mainly picked it up in the first place because i liked the cover… yes sometimes i am just a simple cover slut!
I did like the summary as well. The book however was for a long time in my shelf unread. When I finally picked it up, I was astounded! Lyle created an alternate universe set in Elizabethan London added...more
If you enjoy paranormal historical fiction the likes of Sword & Blood by Sarah Marques or Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson, this book is definitely for you.

The Alchemist of Souls was delightful. Full of gorgeous historical details and true to the spirit of Elizabethan era, but at the same time curiously magical.

Anne Lyle took American Indians of New World and tweaking this or that turned them into skraylings, - these magical beings with scaly tails; strong healers and traders, secretive, mysteriou...more
Shane Cormier
One of the BEST books Ive won on this site. Just finished reading it FINALLY and am in the process of looking for book two. I sure hope its out already but if not Ill be sure to pick it up as soon as I can. I loved how you took an obscure person from history and fabricated your own storyline. And I love how you made the Nordics aliens lol. Absolutely LOVED IT and CANNOT WAIT to finish reading the rest of the story. Definitely my favorite book Ive read in a very long time. Ive read quite a few bo...more
Bane of Kings
Original Post:

“A fantastic, original piece of historical fantasy that makes Lyle a début author to watch out for in 2012.” The Founding Fields.

I haven’t read that much Historical Fiction, be it historical fantasy, as Wolfsangel by MD Lachlan was, and Dan Abnett’s Triumff (also published by Angry Robot) – or just standard historical action, like the Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell, or the Eagle novels by Simon Scarrow, so I thought I’d allow myself to pi...more
Dave Hart
I'm not going to bore you with a summing up of the story like people seem to be doing a lot on here as of late. I'm sure you already have a grasp of the basic story already.

The main thing I have to say is what a joy this was to read. Never going flat or using long drawn out juxtaposition to make a scene more powerful. Granted there isn't a huge moment of overwhelming drama in this story but it just isn't what it is about in this case, its not needed.

Anne is a master at creating hugely interesti...more
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The Book Club: The Alchemist of Souls Feedback - Deadline 7th Jan 2013 9 12 Jan 07, 2013 03:12PM  
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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...more
More about Anne Lyle...
The Merchant of Dreams (Night's Masque, #2) The Prince of Lies (Night's Masque, #3) The Tangled Bank: Love, Wonder, and Evolution Unexpected Journeys

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