Alchemyst – book review

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The Alchemyst
The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel book 1
by Michael Scott
* * * Stars (Pretty Good)

Josh and Sophie (twins) are spending the summer with their aunt in California while their parents are away on an archaeological dig. Josh is working at a bookstore, and Sophie is working in a coffee shop right across the street when the bookstore’s owner, Nick, is attacked by magic and monsters. That’s when the teens discover that Josh has been working for the famous alchemist, Nicholas Flamel (who is now almost 700 years old). The perpetrator of the attack, John Dee, is serving darker powers, and is determined to get his hands on the Book of Abraham, which Flamel has been safeguarding all these years. It holds not only the secrets of alchemy, but also the formula for the philosopher’s stone (what’s been keeping Flamel and his wife Perenelle alive), and much more. Dee manages to make off with the book (minus some very important pages that Josh tears out) and Perenelle, but Flamel and the twins escape before he can bring about their end. Dee continues to hunt them, and Flamel comes to the realization that Josh and Sophie may be the twins mentioned in a prophecy from the Book – the ones who will either save or end the world. He takes them to see the Elder Hekate, so that she can awaken their powers and auras, but before she finishes (only Sophie is awakened properly), Dee and his allies attack and they are forced to flee again. This time, Flamel takes them to see the Witch of Endor, who imbues Sophie with all of her power and knowledge (air magic). Dee tracks them down and attempts to win Josh over to his side – confusing him with half-truths about Nicholas Flamel (he’s been lying to them), and playing on his jealousy (Sophie has been awakened, but not him). He awakens an undead army, which he sends against Flamel and the others, and it is only through Josh’s intervention (powers aren’t everything), that they are once again able to escape – this time through a ley gate that takes them straight to Paris, France, where Flamel hopes they will be able to awaken Josh and give the twins more opportunities to hone their powers. It’s not clear whether Josh believes Flamel or not, he still seems reluctant. And if Dee can awaken him before Flamel finds a way, the twins may find themselves on opposite sides of the coming battle.

This is reminiscent of the Percy Jackson series (also Gregor the Overlander, The Red Pyramid, and Fablehaven) – fast moving plot, adventure, prophecies, and incorporating elements of mythology and history. Both John Dee and Nicholas Flamel were real people, and there was some mystery surrounding Flamel’s career as an alchemist and his “death” (his tomb was found to be empty when it was excavated). Some of the Elders met within the pages are/were beings worshipped by humans. There’s hardly a quiet moment – Flamel and the teens are constantly on the run from Dee and his minions/allies – making for an exciting page-turner. It’s a little difficult to keep track of the characters various powers, however. Flamel, Dee, and Perenelle can do pretty much anything they want (so long as it moves the plot along), which is hard to believe (don’t people with supernatural powers tend to specialize?). I did get pretty caught up in this about halfway through – enough that I’m considering reading the sequel. Since this is going to be a 6 book series, I’m pretty sure there will be plenty of cliff-hanger endings. How I wish authors/publishers could wrap things up in one book! *pouts*

Reviewed by YA Librarian