Tag Archives: The Merchant of Dreams

THE MERCHANT OF DREAMS by Anne Lyle – Review

Merchant of DreamsThe Merchant of Dreams by Anne Lyle

Genre: Adult Historical Fantasy

Publisher: Angry Robot

Release date: December 18 2012

Pages: 528

three and a half

This beautifully written story, the second in the series, was ultimately very frustrating for me to read, mostly due to the fact that I did not read The Alchemist of Souls first. I did not realize this was a second book when I requested it from NetGalley, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have asked for it (and that is entirely my fault, I did not read the description carefully enough – lesson learned!). While it has vivid historical details and an abundance of atmosphere, it was hard for me to stay engaged with the characters and the story. Throughout the book are references to things that happened in the first book, events that aren’t explained and went right over my head. As much as I tried to understand these references from the context of the story, I failed miserably and skimmed over the parts that were confusing, which added to the overall confusion, I’m afraid!

When the story begins, we are thrust into the lives of Mal Catlyn and his valet Coby Hendricks, who have discovered that the skraylings, mystical beings who now live among humans and are reincarnated over and over when they die, may have struck up an alliance with the city of Venice. This necessitates a journey to the famous city to try to fix the problem, which is where the story really became interesting for me. Lyle’s setting is an alternate history Tudor England, complete with references to Shakespeare and Sir Walter Raleigh, among others. (Clearly, the title is a nod to Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.) It’s familiar enough for history buffs to recognize the time period, but with the addition of skraylings into the mix the story becomes a slightly off-kilter reconstruction of that era. Mal and his brother Sandy are interesting characters because a skrayling has been reborn and shares their bodies. (This is one of those story points that I’m still having a hard time grasping, but which I’m sure the first book explains.)

The story is filled with a fair amount of gender-bending and sexual ambiguity.  Mal’s valet Coby is actually a young woman who has been dressing as a boy in order to travel safely with Mal. But from what I can gather, Mal and Coby fell in love during The Alchemist of Souls and still have feelings for each other, albeit unresolved ones. Coby’s disguise makes it nearly impossible for them to acknowledge their feelings in public or risk ridicule, or worse, prison. Then we have Ned, one of my favorite characters, who is Mal’s staunch friend but is in love with him as well. Mal and Ned have been lovers in the past, which makes their present relationship even more confusing. Later when the characters arrive in Venice, yet another character is added to this odd mix, a skrayling named Olivia who represents a serious threat and must be dealt with, despite Mal being extremely attracted to her. It’s interesting to see how all these relationships work themselves out, and Lyle takes her time resolving things, keeping the reader in suspense through most of the story. I found the author’s inclusion of complicated relationships very Shakespearean, and I felt they added a sense of intrigue that felt just right.

The setting of Venice where much of the action takes place was gorgeously descriptive and I felt myself completely immersed in the Venetian culture that the author brings to life. Lyle describes the city as a contradiction, where the elite and wealthy live in splendor and attend masked parties, but around every corner is terrible squalor that is simply a part of everyday life. Men of all social standings urinate on the street, and even the women must find “piss pots” when they need to relieve themselves. I loved some of the historical details that the author sprinkled into her story, such as the invention of the wrist watch and the newfangled “post office” that had recently sprung up in Venice. I also loved the sea journey to Venice, a tense and exciting part of the story where there are dangers aplenty, including pirates.

The fantasy elements were subtle, and for me, my least favorite parts of the book, probably because of the confusion I admitted to earlier. I much preferred the wonderfully detailed history lesson that Lyle provided, and the intrigue among the characters, especially when they arrived in Venice. I would highly recommend this book for history buffs that would enjoy a fantasy element that doesn’t overpower the story. Lyle’s use of period-correct dialog, while a bit hard to read and understand at first, lent authenticity to the story.

The bottom line is this: read The Alchemist of Souls first. While this book is well-written and held many positives for me, my enjoyment was hindered by the fact that I felt like I was going in blind. With the back story of Book One firmly in place, The Merchant of Dreams will most likely enthrall any reader who loves history.

Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

Find The Merchant of DreamsGoodreads * Amazon * Barnes & Noble *

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What’s On My Plate – December 2012

On My PlateWow, November turned out to be busier than I expected. Which means I fell behind in my reading and reviewing, unfortunately. I am sorry to report that although I started NaNoWriMo and wrote 9,000 words in the first week, I realized that it would be almost impossible to keep up the pace with so much going on in my non-blogging life, and so I threw in the towel. Darn! However, I’m very happy and proud to report that my thirteen-year-old son Duncan participated in the NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program and completed his novel of 30,000 words!! It was one of those Proud Mom Moments when he showed me his winner’s badge:)

So, it’s on to December! And here we are, four days into the month already! Here’s what I hope to accomplish this month (click on covers to go to Goodreads):

For Review:

Merchant of DreamsSplinteredBrokenThe Miniature Wife

The Merchant of Dreams by Anne Lyle. Release date: December 18 2012 (Angry Robot). This fantasy is the second in a series, and although I have not read The Alchemist of Souls, I’m very much looking forward to reading this.

Splintered by A. G. Howard. Release date: January 1 2013 (Amulet Books). Finally! I’ve had the NetGalley ARC for a while, and it’s finally time to read it!

Broken by A. E. Rought. Release date: January 8 2013 (Strange Chemistry). This modern spin on Frankenstein is one I can’t wait to start reading!

The Miniature Wife and Other Stories by Manuel Gonzales. Release date: January 10 2013. Won from Library Thing. I’ve already started reading these stories, and they are amazing. I can’t wait to post my review!

Indie Books for Review:

Tears of Min BrockFighting the StormRift Healer

Tears of Min Brock by J. E. Lowder. There are lots of really good reviews of this book on Goodreads, which is one of the ways I decide whether or not to read an Indie book.

Fighting the Storm by Jarrah Loh. This is a bit out of my comfort zone, and not the sort of book I usually read. But the author’s email convinced me to give it a try.

Rift Healer by Diane M. Haynes. This is from small publisher Crescent Moon Press and is another book that has great reviews on Goodreads.  Can’t wait to read it!

Special Review & Giveaway:

Touching the Surface

Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini. I was hoping to read and review Kimberly’s book by the release date (October 30) but obviously that didn’t happen! Oh well, better late than never. Kimberly was kind enough to send me some signed *swag* including bookplates, postcards, rubber bracelets and some adorable origami cranes (!) to help her promote Touching the Surface, and in addition to giving away the swag, I purchased an extra copy of the book to give away as well. Stay tuned, review and giveaway coming soon!

Blog Tours and Hops:

Embrace2end of world button

Embrace by Cherie Colyer. I’ll be reviewing and participating in Cherie’s Blog Tour. I actually won a signed copy of Embrace months ago, and now I will have the opportunity to read it! My tour date is next Monday December 10.

End of the World Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not a Writer & My Life With Books. I just discovered giveaway hops, and they are a lot of fun! I haven’t decided what to give away for this one, but it will be good:) It runs from December 14-21, when the world will hopefully still be around.

Don’t forget to check out my 2013 Catch Up Reading Challenge! I’ll have a giveaway for every ten people who sign up! Click below for more info:

Catch Up Reading Challenge Button225copy

In addition to these, I have two indie books that I’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet. Apologies to those authors, but both reviews will be posted by the end of the week. Such a busy month, and the holidays are upon us as well! Here’s hoping that the world doesn’t end, and I can finish everything my plate:)


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Stacking the Shelves (10)

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, and is a great way to share the books you’ve acquired over the past week(s) with other bloggers. It’s been two weeks since I’ve participated, but I’ve got some great books to share today.

For Review:

How Beauty Met The Beast by Jax Garren. Release date: November 19 2012 (Carina Press). I’m on a Beauty and the Beast kick right now, mostly because of the new CW television series that I’m really enjoying. So I’m anxious to read any book based on that story. This is more of a novella, it’s only about 100 pages, so it should be a quick read.

Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch. Now available (Scholastic Press). I requested this from Edelweiss months ago, and just got approved to read it, even though it’s already hit the shelves. But I’m still looking forward to it, even if I might be a little late on my review. And it’s one of my favorite book covers of the year!

The Merchant of Dreams by Anne Lyle. Release date:  December 18 2012 (Angry Robot). I love being part of the Robot Army! Many thanks to Angry Robot for the auto-approvals!

Guardians of Stone by Anita Clenney. Release date: December 4 2012 (Montlake Romance). I absolutely loved the last Montlake book I read (Edge of Oblivion) and so I was thrilled to receive another of their titles. I’ll be reading this in November. Thank you Susan Stockman at Montlake! Look for a giveaway and author interview next month.

Indie Books for Review:

Tears of Min Brock by J. E. Lowder. This fantasy about a 14-year-old girl’s journey sounds really good. I’ve cut back on the amount of indie books I’m reviewing, because you never know what you’re going to get, but this has some great reviews.

Fighting the Storm by Jarrah Loh. This is not exactly the kind of book I usually read and review, but this martial arts story captured my attention, for some reason. Loh has written a non fiction book for Harper Collins about Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and lives in Australia, so maybe those are the reasons I decided to read this!


The Diviners by Libba Bray. I love Libba Bray, and I’ve been waiting for this book for a long time.

The Twelve by Justin Cronin. The Passage is one of my favorite dystopian/vampire novels, so it’s no wonder how excited I am to read this follow-up.

Whew! Now off I go to my cave to read…what did you get on your shelves this week?


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