Review: Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle

SFF Chronicles News

Well-Known Member
Oct 20, 2013
4th September 2013 04:00 PM

Tim James

Anne Lyle Alchemist Of Souls

I have seen this referred to as an alternate reality book, and although I can see why, for me at least that is not entirely true. An alternate reality is one where a simple diversion has changed the outcome of events – in this case Elizabeth I getting married and having legitimate heirs, but there are extraneous anomalies that make this more a fantasy, in short the skraylings.

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.

Lynch 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. There are twists and turns as the plot develops, but not too much as to bog the reader down, so in all we get a good story, with good characters and it is well written.

Enough to warrant a read of the sequel.

As this is a first novel it bodes well for future publications.

Anne Lyle has been a member of the Chronicles Community since 2007 and has maintained an active presence ever since (even though she should be writing
) and has often been and insightful and helpful member, more than willing to take part in the writing discussions that often appear.