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Book Review

Book Cover

The Alchemyst
The Secret of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel


Author: Michael Scott
RRP: £5.99, US $8.99
ISBN: 978 0 552 55709 2
Available 29 May 2008

Lives can be changed during momentous events, but sometimes just the fact of where you work can drag you into events you could not imagine. This is what happened to Josh and Sophie, brother and sister. Josh works in a book shop while Sophie works across the road serving coffee. A mundane ordinary existence which is shattered when Dee and his goon Golem attack Nicholas Flamel’s bookshop in search of the Codex, a book of alchemy which has allowed Nicholas and his wife Perenelle to attain virtual immortality. Although the attack partially fails, Dee captures most of the book and Perenelle. With their lives in danger Josh and Sophie flee the scene with Nicholas, who introduces them to a world full of danger and wonder...

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel is the first of a six book series by Irish author Michael Scott. The book is a fantasy novel aimed at the young adult market. I’m always dubious about this genre as it can produce books which can be read and enjoyed by all ages and some awful dross written by middle aged authors who think that teenagers still say ‘neat’. I’m glad to report that Scott doesn’t feel the need to either talk down to his audience, or provide them with the sort of slang which was out of fashion when I was a teenager.

Obviously, with six books in mind, The Alchemyst’s primary role is to act as an introduction to the series and its mythology. That is not to say that the book lacks action as the story starts with John Dee’s attack on the bookshop. The importance of the Codex which he coverts is that among its many other wonders it holds the recipe to the elixir of life. Without the book Nicholas and Perenelle will age and die within a month. Although this provides a dramatic opening to the story, it does leave some questions in the reader's mind. I’m not sure if I missed something, but if Nicholas has been using the herbs and spells described in the book, why would its loss be a problem for his immortality? Does immortality come with memory problems? After all he’s been brewing this particular potion for a good few hundred years, you would have thought he would have memorised it by now.

Passing over the few plot holes, the three flee the ruined shop and Nicholas first seeks aid from Scathach, a trainer of warriors and a vegetarian vampire, before searching out the services of Hekate, an Elder, who has the power to awaken the teenagers’ magic powers. Things do not go as planned and once more the group are on the run from Dee.

In between his own mythology Scott cherry picks much from human history and legend, weaving the two together to make a seamless whole. The book is extremely well written and certainly does not fall into the category of Harry Potter rip off, though Potter fans will find much in the book to enjoy. Hopefully, as the series continues, Scott will expand on the wider story of the Elders attempts of enslave humanity. I found the story of the fraternal twins interesting, but at the close of the book I found that I wanted to know more of the back-story.

There is a lot to get through in the first part of the novel and sometimes the plot moves a little too quickly as it attempts to introduce characters and place them in context. Once this settles down the second half of the book is much stronger.

Ultimately, this is a good introduction to the series and now that the bones of the story have been laid down the following novels cannot be other than richer and deeper. For fans of fantasy novels The Alchemyst is well worth a look.


Charles Packer

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