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

3.51  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,378 Ratings  ·  235 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 appointed t
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Published June 1st 2012 by Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio (first published January 1st 2012)
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Aug 25, 2014 Gavin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, paranormal
This was an easygoing and enjoyable read. It was an alternate history/fantasy novel set in Elizabethan London. The world building was quite good. Anne Lyle manages to keep the feel of Tudor England while seamlessly mixing in the fantasy elements of the Skraylings and their magic.

This story follows down on his luck swordsman for hire Mal Catlyn as he is hired as bodyguard to the newly arrived Skrayling ambassador. The plot was rife with intrigue and mystery, and even had a hint of romance.

Mal w
Xenophon Hendrix
May 28, 2012 Xenophon Hendrix rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
Sep 13, 2012 Jacqie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didnt-finish
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-
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 17, 2012 Taztic rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a tough one. I've had, and I won't bore you with the details, the week from Hell, and it's only Wednesday. Reading like a person possessed has been the only thing that's kept me in one piece, so I've torn through this in record time. Maybe I ran through it too fast, or maybe just my messed up head in general hasn't done it justice, but I really didn't feel this lived up to expectations.

The Alchemist of souls is built on a fantastic concept, I love the idea of the Skraylings, but for me
Aug 25, 2014 Desinka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had high expectations for this book and I wasn't disappointed. This alternate history set in Tudor England with the small addition of fanged and tattooed New Worlders, who I suspect were inspired by the Aztec, has been a very interesting account of the lives and adventures of a rapier master turned bodyguard and spy and a girl masked as a boy in a true Shakespearean fashion.

I found the story very entertaining and engaging. The characters were true to life and quite interesting. I loved the fa
Feb 06, 2012 Abhinav rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: angry-robot, fantasy
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
Feb 01, 2016 wishforagiraffe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great alternate history fantasy, set in Elizabethan England. Viking explorers discovered a magical race in the New World, and they impact England in all sorts of interesting ways in this story. One of the main characters is a young woman who dresses as a man in order to stay independent and continue to work with a theater company. There are several prominent gay and bisexual characters, all handled very well. There are some excellent twists to the story that build suspense very well, a ...more
Oct 22, 2015 Dawn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, read-in-2015
This was just ok for me. It sort of felt like there was something missing. I can't put my finger on exactly what, but something. It started out interesting, but just failed to hold my attention overall. By the halfway point I was just waiting for it to be over and pushing through just to get it over with. And that's not to say it was bad though... It was fine. Like I said, it just didn't hold my attention. Whenever I read it my mind would drift and instead of comprehending the words on the page ...more
Oct 14, 2014 Kat rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2014
Basic plot: Mal Catlyn is a down-on-his-luck swordsman who falls into the job of a lifetime, guarding the Skrayling ambassador to England. Lots of shenanigans.

AUGH. So much potential... So much wanting to like... So MUCH wasted time... SO many overdue fees at the library (A whole 75 cents!)... GAH.

Ok, so to begin at the beginning: POTENTIAL. We have an alternate history of Elizabethan England featuring a queen who actually married Robert Dudley and had kids. So much potential. Shakespeare is run
Mar 20, 2012 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 30, 2012 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 28, 2012 Barbara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
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
May 06, 2012 Ruth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spec-fic
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
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
Milo (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
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
Mar 14, 2014 Janet rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 01, 2015 Kristina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1st-in-series
rating: 3.5
Claire Rousseau
Jan 20, 2016 Claire Rousseau rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 03, 2012 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 09, 2012 Kendra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
April Steenburgh
Jun 26, 2012 April Steenburgh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Alek Cristea
Sep 27, 2012 Alek Cristea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Leontii  Cristea
Jun 05, 2012 Leontii Cristea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 27, 2012 Gwyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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 about Anne Lyle...

Other Books in the Series

Night's Masque (3 books)
  • The Merchant of Dreams (Night's Masque, #2)
  • The Prince of Lies (Night's Masque, #3)

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