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Fantasy Review: ‘The Alchemist of Souls’ by Anne Lyle

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 already in place.  I also expected protagonist Mal to be a scoundrel with a heart of gold, but there was very little scoundrel and a whole lot of heart of gold.  So all my expectations were wrong.

-I do like the characters.  Two main characters, both entertaining.  Both were fairly straight and narrow, but compelling enough to show that fantasy’s current focus on morally ambiguous characters isn’t the only way to keep a reader interested.  Perhaps too much focus on some of the secondary characters at times, several of them ran together in my mind; page flipping was needed to keep them straight.

-Does Angry Robot have all the best covers?  I really like the cover.

-Nice to see the Skraylings being an example of anti-orking.  Rather than being a people of a single mind, it is obvious that they are much like humanity, with different members of society having different ideas of what is best. 

-Something about the theatre setting that ran through the background of the book just worked. It allowed the diverse cast to act realistically.  Not sure I completely understood the contest of plays that was going on, but it was a fairly unique setting for a story anyway.

-Romance angle was light and handled very nicely.  Realistic crushes, casual sex for some and chastity from others; another example of each characters having their own lives and agency.  Did I mention I liked the cast?

-See how scatterbrained I am?  I haven’t even mentioned the story itself.  It was quick paced, bouncing mostly between two PoV’s with some small passages going to others.  The Skraylings were just mysterious enough to be interesting without feeling completely alien.  There was some good action, villains convinced they are morally right, and some double crossings.  I would have liked some more of the espionage angle but I got an interesting tennis match instead, so I will take what I can get.  All said, it was interesting throughout, I was never bored, and I am happy I read it.

Ok, if you’re willing to write this review for me be sure to throw in a little plot summery.  Let them know that Mal is a reluctant ambassador’s guard who’s past involves an unknown incident with the Skraylings that has him scared; and that he thinks the Skraylings may know about it.  Mention young Coby, hiding under the guise of a man allowing her more options to work.  Add in that a plot is active against the Skraylings, the Queen, or maybe both.  Xenophobia is present, restrictive religious laws are in place, and many people have something to hide.  Or just point them to the book blurb, because this book it too hard to summarize in a paragraph.

Lastly, be sure to make it a lot more coherent than my ramblings, and feel free to make it witty.  I want to look good.  Thanks!

4 stars


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