The Alchemyst makes for compelling reading.
He holds the secret that can end the world
The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on 28 September 1330. Nearly seven hundred years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life.
The records show that he died in 1418.
But his tomb is empty.
The legend: Nicholas Flamel lives. But only because he has been making the elixir of life for centuries. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects – the book of Abraham the Mage. It’s the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world.
That’s exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it.
Sometimes legends are true.
And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.
The Alchemyst, by Irish author Michael Scott, makes for compelling reading. It is a fast-paced, action-packed young adult novel that is built upon a fascinating idea. The central character is Nicholas Flamel, an alchemyst born in the 14th century and famous for his reputed work on the Philosopher’s Stone (a legendary alchemical tool capable of turning base metals into gold and gifting the owner immortality). name entered further into popular culture after it featured in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
The Alchemyst’s finest attribute is that it will encourage further reading; all the characters that feature within its pages are based upon real-life historical characters or mythological beings. It would be pleasant to believe that this book will awaken a love for Greek, Egyptian and Celtic mythology as well as the rich history of our own world.
I felt that the second half of the book was stronger than the first. Although the narrative was always interesting, the book was not immediately involving and it took a while to get up and running. Having said that, the characterisation is strong and teenagers in particular will easily identify with their twins. Fans of Harry Potter will certainly be interested in exploring the legend of Nicholas Flamel in greater detail.
My favourite moment of the book was when Flamel and the twins met Hekate, an elder God who lived an entire life every single day. In the morning she was a young girl, in the afternoon a middle-age woman and the evening saw her transformed into a bitter old crone. This was, for me, the book’s highlight and both Hekate’s character and the shadow-world she lived in were beautifully described, the ageing process that she endured daily was sympathetically and cleverly done.
“The Elder Race divided into two groups: those who worked with the humani and those who regarded them as little better than slaves – and, in some cases, food. The Elders warred against one another in battles that took centuries to complete. Occasionally humani would fight on one side, and their exploits were recalled in great legends like those of Gilgamesh and Cuchulain, Atlas and Hippolytus, Beowulf and Ilya of Murom.”
The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel - Chapter Eighteen
The jacket of The Alchemyst, illustrated by Michael Wagner, is beautiful and worth much of the book’s price alone.
An authority on mythology and folklore, Michael Scott is one of Ireland’s most successful authors. A master of fantasy, science fiction, horror and folklore, he has been hailed by the Irish Times as ‘the King of Fantasy in these isles’. He lives and writes in Dublin.
The Alchemyst is the first book in “The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel” series written by Michael Scott. I really wanted to read this book as soon as I read the back of it; Nicholas Flamel is well known character and has made many other appearances (among which is his friendship with Dumbledore in the first book in the Harry Potter series). The Alchemyst centres around the lives of a young - 15 years old -, pair of twins, Sophie and Josh Newman, who live in the great city of San Francisco, leading their ordinary lives. Sophie works at a coffee shop and Josh works in a bookshop with Nick Fleming. But their lives are about to take a turn to the extraordinary. Similarly to The Storm Begins by Damian Dibben, you really have to hold on to your hat when you start to read The Alchemyst, it is a very fast paced book, written in a clear way and which throws you from one magic scene to the other before you can even blink your eye. I do think that this pacing and the setting of the Alchemyst does appeal to the younger audience, it for me felt that with the introduction of the many mythological creatures that it was more a display of many different facets instead of using just a few characters and building around it.
As I mentioned the story centres around the 15 year old twins: Sophie and Josh Newman, their parents are archaeologists and they live together in San Francisco. When I first read about them they felt like real teenagers having to take jobs to earn some extra money. But as the story progressed it is mentioned that they are saving for a car and the other references towards the world around them, they did not really feel like the teenagers I first read about. It was too mixed. Sophie and Josh are said to be the destined twins who can both save or destroy the world. This last part resonated strongly through the whole book, where on one side you have Nicholas Flamel and his friends who want to train and educate Sophie and Josh in order to save the world from the evil Dark Elders, and on the other hand you have Dr. John Dee, who is in league with Dark Elders and wants to have the magic Codex and destroy the world.
Nicholas Flamel - born in 1330 and still alive – owns the bookshop that Josh was working in and now that his Codex and his wife Perenelle has been taken from him he is determined to save his wife and get his precious Codex back before the Dark Elders can use it. Although his character reflected his years of living nicely, it did fall short for me with how he was shown. I expected Nicholas to be much more impressive and though he does have his Elder connections I really wanted to see what Nicholas could do - it seems that he has forgotten many things over the centuries... a pity for me.
One side that is shown greatly is the evil side led by Dr. John Dee. In these kind of stories, saving the world, good guys vs. bad guys, some authors only highlight the good side and leave the bad side much to be desired. This is luckily not the case in The Alchemyst, the side of John Dee shown is almost as detailed as Sophie and Josh. And somehow I did enjoy reading of the plans of John Dee more than Sophie and Josh trying to pull through. This probably was due to the fact that the Elders that were in league with him. In the end, with John trying to convince Josh was cool. All in all the basic level of the characters was there but I just missed the growing of them taken over the whole story. There was just one exception that of Sophie who grew into her powers in the end.
Like I have said many times, I am a sucker for magic in stories and luckily The Alchemyst played directly into my senses. Everyone can do magic in The Alchemyst, it just has to be awakened in a person. After the awakening, a persons senses - smell, touch, sight and hearing - are enhanced, amongst others, but they also gain an aura which is the basis of magic and the auric power allows the magicians to throw auric spears and much more… providing quite the lively display in the first encounter in the bookshop of Nicholas Flamel. Added to this is that there is more than one class of magic, there are several, like Alchemy and Necromancy and each is unique. This diverse magic potential was really great to read about.
There were a few points on which it felt that the Alchemyst did not quite make it for me and that was like I mentioned in the beginning the rapid introduction of many mythical elements and characters into the story. If it could have revolved around only a few and later building upon those would have made it for me. There are references to Egyptian, Irish and Norse gods, Yggdrasil and even Excalibur make an appearance. It did give a feeling of lets add enough cool stuff to make a cool story, but for me this backfired and produced a more chaotic story that did not fully come to it potential in the end.
All in all The Alchemyst is a nice starter for a mythological inspired story that will appeal to many young readers. Showing a set of main characters that they can relate to and on top of that the nice and often flashy displays of the auric magic. I really liked how the book ended with a quick point of view for Perenelle, who is captured by John Dee, with the single sentence: “It is now only just the beginning…” this adds to a much greater and grander perspective in the books to follow.
Jasper de Joode, 7.6/10
9 positive reader review(s) for The Alchemyst
An authority on mythology and folklore, Michael Scott is one of Ireland's most successful authors. A master of fantasy, science fiction, horror and folklore, he has been hailed by the Irish Times as 'the King of Fanta [...]
Danya from Philippines
One of the first books I've read, and still it remains the best. This book made me love mythology and reading novels. Never will I forget the thrills and the adventures in this book!
Paakhi from India
Just the book I have ever looked for!!! Awesome!!!!!
Brebo from Gallifrey
Good fantasy... Can't seem to put it down.
Prashant from US
Amazing book! Much much much much much better than Harry Potter. Recommend for everyone!!!!!!!
Yousef from Norway
Well written, but kinda unoriginal characters. But original plot. I like the idea.
Anthony from Canada
It was great, the whole plot was brilliant and I really think it should be a movie. The Alchemyst just wants to make me read the entire series.
Alex from U.S.
I just finished reading the Alchemyst and I think that this is one of the best books next to Harry Potter! The Alchemyst FOREVER!
Cameron from San Diego
Altogether it had all the elements for a mysterious, thrilling, and fun piece of young adult fantasy. It was extremely quick paced, one moment everything was mundane, the next a mystical journey began with a mythical and eccentric alchemist and vampire warrior. The action was top notch, featuring explosive magic, the rising of the dead, and vicious armies spawned from powerful mythological beings. It was enough to distract you from the lack of character development and the lack of emotional experience the twins were sharing. It was touched on a few times, but I would like to think that the transition from everyday city life to being in a shadow realm with hekate would be a bit more traumatizing. But hey, that's just my take. Great for kids and fantasy loving teens, or if you are an adult who still has the ability to enjoy a light hearted adventure.
John from Odoom
Best book handsdown I have ever met. I was glued to it from start to finish; couldn't put it down. Just locked myself in the room and read till I was hungry. Story is incredibly developed and well researched. Way different form Harry Potter you haters! Characters and everything from the magic to the Elder Race was great. Even after the book, I wanted to know more about Nicholas Flamel and Perenelle's story. Such a great book for young readers.
Niccolo from New York City
The entire series is one of the best, quirkiest, most intriguing novels I have ever read. A must-read for all ages.
Very well researched and good use of descriptive language. I agree with the criticisms in the above reviews. Still, it was quite the page turner and i recommend it for Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl fans.
Niamh from Ireland
I have just finished The Alchemyst and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. The plot was well thought out and Scott clearly put a lot of research into the myths and legends he references. I really enjoyed the book, although I had two minor criticisms. One was, as Joel said, characters aren't very developed. The other was some of the technology and pop culture references seemed a bit awkward, almost wedged in. However, I was still glued to the book from start to finish.
Joel from Denver
Enjoyed the book. Lots of action. Sometimes action gets a little tiresome because it has a repetitious nature to it. This is a small criticism, the books are fun to read and are compelling story that keeps you reading. I read the first 3 in quick succession. Characters are fun, the fantastical world created is really good and you want to find out more about he elder race. Light on character development. I keep wishing characters had a bit more development. Overall very good books.
8.8/10 from 14 reviews