Review: in this alternative history where the Virgin Queen has children, Maliverny Catlyn, aka Mal, is a swordsman. Who, one day, is charged with protecting the ambassador of the Skraylings, some non-human creatures from Viking lore. Being desparate for money to pay for the treatment of his brother Sandy, he takes the jo, but soon finds out there’s more to protecting the ambassador than keeping him from killers. Along the way, Mal gets involved with the Suffolk’s Men, one of the companies performing for the ambassador, with his frend Ned Faulkner, his lover Gabriel Parrish, and Coby Hendricks, a girl in disguise as a boy.Alternate history that doesn’t involve Victorians isn’t my normal fare, but I loved the Tudor period before and this is an excellent addition to the collection. We go to all sides of Tudor London, from the rough pubs and market, to a posh boat ride on the Thames, to Bedlam, and the tone is captured well.All the characters! My favourite by far was Cody-she’s independent, thinks on her feet, and clever. Close seconds and thirds were Mal and the ambassador Kiiren, the first of whom is your typical handsome, rogue swordsman and the other who has more to him than you’d first think. There’s a lot of characters in Alchemist of Souls, and it does get a bit confusing at times.The Skraylings are a really interesting race-not your typical fantasy aliens. Through Mal’s eyes, we learn and like them more. The soul side aspect is cool.It’s a bit slow. I get that it’s all brewing and things will come, but there were parts where I just wanted something else to happen. Finally, at the three quarter mark (and with it being on a kindle, it seems longer and further away than I’d probably find if I had the print copy) there’s a big thing and everything happens.Anne gives us some subtle messages on gender and sexuality in the Tudor period. It’s written in fairly close third person, and when talking about Coby, there’s a nice comment about how “if her sisters knew how freeing trousers were, they’d never wear skirts again.” Coby definitely gets around a lot, and I really liked her. Also, it’s nice having openly LGBT characters, where it’s not the focus. You will find a little conflict in this area, but bonus points for putting it at a time where homosexuality was a crime. Otherwise, Ned and Gabriel are treated just as another relationship.Anne’s writing style is beautifully descriptive. It’s all in third person, but each section follows one character closely, letting you see things from their point of view, for example Coby being referred to as Coby, Jacob or Hendricks depending on who’s looking.Despite the dark happenings of the book, what with soul hopping and Bedlam and plots, there’s some lighter moments too. Pretty much anything involving Mal and Coby alone. And I was shipping Mal and Coby so hard throughout. Overall: Strength 4 tea to book with rich characters and tone. I’ll definitely read on in the series!