Saturday, June 21, 2008


The Alchemyst:

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel
by Michael Scott

This book drew my attention immediately because of the Nicholas Flamel connection - some may remember him as the creator of the Philosopher's Stone in the first Harry Potter book. I was curious to see what another author had done with him and this being a teen novel, I was hoping for something meaty.

This weighty novel did not disappoint. The action begins quickly, as Sophie stands on a regular summer day in the coffee shop where she works and sees chaos break out in the bookstore across the street, where her twin brother is employed. She runs to him, and the pair are drawn into a whole new world, where the unassuming bookseller Nick Fleming and his wife Perry turn out to be the ages-old alchemist and his wife, kept alive for hundreds of years through a formula he uncovered in an ancient text. Coming after them and that same text is another magician, this one from Elizabeth I's court and also immortal through magic, Dr. John Dee, who has allied himself with ancient and dark forces who wish to reclaim the world for themselves and enslave the human race.

As they flee Dee, Josh (the other twin) manages to rip two very important pages from the book - pages which Dee will want badly enough to continue hunting for the twins and Flamel, though he has captured his wife. Flamel, and later Dee, also begin to suspect that these twins are something special, something referred to in one of the book's prophecies, and that the fate of the world may well rest with them and how well they can be protected and taught along the way.

The action is nonstop in this book, and as the plot twists and progresses, the author has drawn in a wide variety of historical figures and legends, weaving them together to form a background that he notes took years to piece together before he truly began writing the book. Without giving away too much detail, he incorporates myths from Egypt and the British Isles, as well as legends that have cropped up in cultures around the world, topping it off with a sprinkling of real historical figures such as Flamel and Dee. (An excerpt at the end reveals that we can look forward to Nicolo Machiavelli joining the fray in the next book, where the chase has moved to Europe.) The result is something so well-thought-out that it becomes convincing in the reading, and allows for easy suspension of disbelief - something I struggle with sometimes in reading fantasy-type fiction, and I must admit, the use of real mythology certainly helps for me. The book's construction and backstory is clever and interesting, the plot keeps you reading, and the characters sympathetic enough that even where you don't feel that you know them well (as in the enigmatic ancient warrior Scathach), you care about their fate. It all comes together to mean that I read this book in record time, sacrificing valuable evening flake-out time and nearly missing my subway stop on more than one occasion. Yes, I was riveted, and devoured it in mere days, quite a thing for a slow reader like myself to say of a 375-pager.

This book was terrific - I am handing it off to a coworker who was looking for something to read, and I am more than a touch disappointed to see that the next installment is not available in the catalogue yet, though it is to be released in hardcover later this week, according to Indigo (which I had to go and check, having just finished the book today!). Perhaps it might have to be a rare teen purchase...

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Hah! I've just finished it this morning, and really loved it. I went online to look for the sequel and came across your comments, so I felt compelled to respond. I've just ordered my copy from Indigo.

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!
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