Title: The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, Book 1)
Author: Michael Scott
Published: May 2007 by Random House
Recommended for ages 10 and up
WHAT’S THE BOOK ABOUT?
Here’s a synopsis from the publisher:
He holds the secret that can end the world.
The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 1330. Nearly 700 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.
A QUICK 411… The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel (whew, that’s a mouthful!) is a series of 6 books, written by Michael Scott, who is an Irish author. The Alchemyst is the first book in the series.
WHAT DID I THINK OF THE BOOK?
I really love mythology and books based on mythology pique my interest. This is even more interesting because it’s not based on just one specific myth; it’s a melting pot of myths. It mixes up Greek, Norse, Celtic, Egyptian, as well as a few other myths and legends together. I found it very interesting, particularly because I am not familiar with Celtic myths. It was nice to get to know it a bit.
But wait, there’s more! It includes sorcery and magic. Not only is it a mixture of myths and involves magic and sorcery, but it also involves famous historical figures and… Wait for iiiit… It suggests the idea that famous historical figures are exceptional because they had special abilities, practicing sorcery and magic. How awesome is that?
Among the characters in the book, I think Sophie and Josh Newman are the only original characters. The rest are derived from history and mythology, in one way or another. It’s good versus evil, though there were some gray areas along the way. You’d wonder sometimes if the good guys are really the good guys, or the bad guys are really the bad guys.
The story goes straight to the point in the first few chapters. The adventure begins right away. It’s fast-paced. It made me use Google and Wikipedia a lot; mainly to research historical figures as well as mythological places and beings because they got me curious (yeah, I know, I’m nerdy like that). Some I already knew a few facts about, the others none at all.
Of course, creative license was taken and there were changes on several facts related to the historical figures (as well as the mythological ones, to an extent. I would probably be a fool to believe that Shakespeare really was a sorcerer of some sort). It’s fiction and fantasy, so of course the reader isn’t meant to take it as a reference for a history assignment or something.
Let’s see… for this book, there’s Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel, John Dee, Scathach, Hekate, Ygdrasill, the Codex, Excalibur, the Witch of Endor, Bastet, the Morrigan. In the subsequent books, more mythological and historical figures will make their appearance, like Joan of Arc, Comte de Saint Germain, William Shakespeare, Niccolo Machiavelli, Mars, Billy the Kid,Virginia Dare, Niten, Prometheus, Anubis, Isis, Osiris, etc. It blew my mind!
Now, Sophie and Josh, they can be a bit annoying sometimes, especially Josh. Or Sophie. I think they’re not as annoying here as they could be in the subsequent books (yes, I’ve read the whole series already)
I found the story so engaging, I couldn’t put the book down as much as I wanted to go to sleep. Before I knew it, it was 3 AM and I was still awake, reading. Of course, I had to try and practice self-control after finishing the first book or I would have ended up sleepless for several nights.
- Josh had just witnessed magic. But of course, everyone knew that magic simply did not and could not exist.
- “To remain unknown in this modern world; that, indeed, is real power.” – Nicholas Flamel
- “…And the immortal must train the mortal. The two that are one must become the one that is all.” – Codex
- “You must learn to heed your senses. Humans use but a tiny percentage of theirs. They barely look, they rarely listen, they never smell, and they think that they can only experience feelings through their skin. But they talk, oh, do they talk. That makes up for the lack of use of their other senses.” – Nicholas Flamel
- “Wait. Look. Notice. If you keep those three words in mind, you just might survive the next few days.” – Nicholas Flamel
- “At the heart of every legend there is a grain of truth.” – Nicholas Flamel
- “But what science cannot understand, it dismisses. Not everything can be so easily brushed aside.” – Nicholas Flamel
- “Once you have been touched by magic, you are forever changed.” – Nicholas Flamel
- “And once begun, change cannot be reversed.” – Nicholas Flamel
- “He who retreats lives longer.” – Scathach
TO WRAP THINGS UP…
I really had a hard time putting the book down. I found it to be very interesting and engaging. I liked how there’s not much dillydallying in the story, it’s as straight to the point as can be. The adventure started right away and continued in a rather fast pace. As a reader, I also sort of felt the urgency of the situation the characters were in as I was reading. I think the timeline of the whole series of six books lasts only 7 or 8 days. Imagine that, eh? The world could end in just a week and its fate is in the hands of teenagers who barely know anything about magic, or saving the world. *gasp*
I really enjoyed how Mr. Scott made use of previously established characters. It made me research and brush up on my history (and mythology), because I wanted to learn more and weed out fact from fiction. To be quite honest, I didn’t even have any idea who John Dee was until I read this book. Well, now I know.
If you like mythology or history or magic (or all three), I imagine you would enjoy reading this book. It’s also available on audiobook, if you prefer that format. Remember, it’s fantasy and fiction, so don’t take it too seriously. If you think you can get over the deviation and liberty taken with the historical characters and myths, then I think you will have fun reading it.