Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Alchemist of Souls, Anne Lyle

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.

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 the Elizabethan setting just didn't feel right. It's a language thing more than anything I think, the characters chatter away as normal and every now and then it felt like Lyle panicked and chucked in a 'forsooth' here and a 'sirrah' there and thought, "There, that ought to do it - Tudor times! Ta-Da!". Obviously it's alternate history mixed with Fantasy...and yes....of course....authors can do what they like with their worlds. But to me it felt 'off' right from the start in this respect. Lob in a heavy dose of Shakespeare in love, and a few highlights from your old school history textbook, and you've got the majority of the novel. The enjoyable originality of the Skraylings for me was sadly cancelled out by the tiredness of the Girl-Disguised-As-Boy-Falls-In-Love-With-Male-Protagonist plot. 

Really this was a case of huge initial excitement dissolving  slowly into mediocrity, if I'm being completely honest. And there's not much point writing this if I'm not. There are some fun elements, but it's a bit like throwing a quick coat of paint on an old wall, and hoping no one will notice the cracks. 

Fun concept, lovely shiny cover art, but sadly not for me I don't think. I made it through to the end, and I've appreciated the distraction, but can't see myself going any further into the series.

1 comment:

  1. Shame; it does look like an intriguing read, though I'll probably give it a miss. Thanks for the review :)