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Review: The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle

The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle (Night's Masque #1)

Egalley thanks to Angry Robot UK

Synopsis from Goodreads
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 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 his soul.

Amazon  US/UK | Amazon kindle US($5.38)/UK(£4.38!) | The Book Depository US/UK | Fishpond


* * *
 If you enjoy paranormal historical fiction the likes of Sword & Blood or Thieftaker, 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, mysterious and enigmatic, who became a powerful ally for the Elizabethan Court.

The Alchemist of Souls has everything, - gritty and bloody fencing, the frailty of human life so typical for the era, blackmail, forbidden exploration of homosexuality, case of cross-dressing, political intrigues, spies, rebels, secret societies, and above all, love for the all things theatrical.

There is nothing particularly alchemical in this book, and the main character, Maliverny Catlyn doesn't have any magical talents. He is an ex-soldier with an insane twin-brother and some unholy fighting skills. So, when the ambassador of the skraylings requests him, an impoverished aristocratic son of a dead diplomat as his bodyguard, no one can be more surprised at his choice than Mal. 

Since the incident from his childhood after which his brother went mad, Mal is deadly afraid of skraylings, but the money is good, and he is pretty desperate to take the job. 

The deeper Mal is drawn into the life of skraylings and the closer he gets to the young ambassador, the worse his chances of survival. Everyone wants a slice of skraylings - Spanish, French, political rivals within the court, and the strangers from New World themselves are keeping a horrifying secret which will irrevocably change all Mal's beliefs.

The secondary characters - Coby, Gabriel, Ned and Kiieran are interesting, complicated and lovely. I loved the insight into the life of theatre, Coby's brilliance and practicality, Gabriel's weaknesses and Kiieran's childlike genuine care for Mal.

Very much recommended.

* * *
Очень развлекательная книга вышла у Анны Лайл. Она замечательно описала Елизаветовскую эпоху, и в тоже время её роман  - это альтернативная история с паранормальными элементами.

Елизавета, например, вышла замуж за Роберта Дадли и родила ему сыновей. Открытие Нового Света привело к знакомству не с индейцами, а со скрэйлингами - магическими человекообразными существами с чешуйчатыми хвостами, татуировками, превосходными знахарскими способностями и огромным почитанием женщин.

В Алхимике Душ скрэйлинги с их флотом - союзники Англии, и их посол впервые посещает английские берега, где в его честь три театральные труппы Лондона будут соперничать за наилучшее представление.

Маливерни Катлин - обедневший аристократ, бывший солдат и талантливый фехтовальщик, наш главный герой, вдруг находит себя в эпицентре политических интриг, когда скрэйлинги запрашивают его в качестве телохранителя посла.

Чем больше он узнаёт Кииерана, которого охраняет, чем больше его пытаются подкупить с помощью взяток и шантажа враги и игроки за политическую власть Англии, тем меньше у него и его друзей остаётся шансов на выживание.

Книга полна интриг, брутальности и хрупкости человеческой жизни, характерной для эпохи и вкуснейших исторических деталей. Сам Мал с его прозаичностью солдата - выпивка, девки, редкие ванны и прочие прелести жизни, мне очень импонировал. Его друзья - Коби, Гэбриэль и Нед, его сумасшедший брат близнец и сам посол оказались полнокровными интересными второстепенными персонажами и добавили к колориту книги.

Очень рекомендую, ибо вкусно, хотя местами не ясно. Хочу продолжения.


Mel said...

Another book that is on my to read pile - I swear we must share a bookcase at times! I like the historical fantasy idea - it might be a nice andecdote to all the YA I've been reading recently!

kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews said...

Ahaha, we do have very similar bookshelves, Mel! :))) It would be refreshing after all these YAs I'm sure!

Blodeuedd said...

Ohh Skraylings! Cool :D Red ships and strange tidings, I'd want to read about this

kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews said...

You read more fantasy than me, Blodeuedd, and I'm looking forward to your opinion of this one :)

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