Rummanah Aasi
  I never heard of Nicholas Flamel nor Dr. John Dee until now. Apparently, the are both real, historical figures. Flamel was one of the most popular alchemists of his time. He was born in 1330. It has been rumored that Flamel had discovered the two greatest secrets of alchemy in a book called The Book of Abraham: how to turn metal into gold (also known as the philosopher's stone) and how to become immortal. Historical records show that he died in 1418, but when people dug up his grave it was empty and more rumors spread. Dr. John Dee, like Flamel, was also an alchemist but he was also a spy for Queen Elizabeth I, a mathematical, a geographer, an astronomer, and an astrologer. Flamel and Dee play a major role along with mythology and magic in Michael Scott's best selling series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Famel. I recently finished the first book of the series called The Alchemyst.

Description: Sophie and Josh are ordinary fifteen year old twins, who finds themselves in an extraordinary situation. Unknowingly, they find themselves caught up in the deadly struggle between two archival alchemists, Nicholas Flamel and John Dee, over the possession of an ancient book called The Book of Mage, which holds the most powerful spells. If the book is in the wrong hands, the world as we know it will be destroyed. The more that Sophie and Josh learn about the book and the alchemists, it seems that the power to save the world is in their hands, but can they trust what anyone says?

Review: I really wanted to love this book. It had everything that I could love in a complex fantasy: mythology, magic, compelling characters, and historical figures yet I thought the book was just okay. The pacing of The Alchemyst is feverishly fast. We are immediately plunged into an explosion and lots of characters are thrown at the reader without much explanation. Once the explosion has cleared, however, we slowly begin to understand that Sophie and Josh have unwillingly find themselves in midst of a catch and chase game between rivaling alchemists, Flamel and Dee. Flamel and his wife, Perry, has had the most covet magical book, The Book of Abraham, for eons. Dee is constantly pursuing the Flamels and is dead set on getting the book and getting rid of the Flamels for once and for all. Sophie's and Josh's problem grows exponentially when they come to find out that they are involved in a prophecy where the safety of our world lies in their hands.
  The characters that Scott introduces in his complex story are derived from history as well as several mythologies including Celtic and Egyptian. Flamel is an intriguing character that is shady at best. I constantly questioned what his real motive is throughout the book, which is something he advised the twins to do so too. Dee is also maliciously good. He has everything that makes a great villain: ambition, smarts, and a clear goal. Sophie and Josh are pretty good too. They are twins, but first and foremost, they are friends who depend on one another for support, but most importantly they balance each other out. For instance, Sophie is more prone to think things over and stay calm while Josh is reckless, emotional, and impulsive. Needless to say this says something about the prophecy in which they play a major role. Unlike the human characters, the mythological creatures are hard to pin down, mostly because I don't know anything about them which is my major complaint about this book and what hindered me from enjoying it.
  The Alchemyst is filled with action scene after action scene with minimal explanations. I could easily identify the mythological creatures yet I was scrambling to find some context in which they appear. Unlike Greek or Roman mythology, I am not at all familiar with Celtic and Egyptian mythology which is why I really had a hard time enjoying this book because the deities were mentioned by name but know brief information was given about them.
  I hate when authors withhold information from their readers. I don't mind researching. Heck, that's what I do for a living, but I would like to read a book where at least I have some key terms to use to find the information. Besides the names of the creatures, I really had no where to go from there. Perhaps kids and teens who read this book overlook this lack of information, but I found the book hard to read when I know there are some significant meanings behind symbols and not knowing what it is. I found myself putting down the book, researching, picking the book up again, and then putting down again. This cycle got tiring and took me out of the story, but I did finish because I liked the characters.
 Another thing that bothered me while reading the book is that I was puzzled why Flamel and his wife needs the book for the recipe to stay immortal when they already have had the book in their possession for centuries upon centuries? Wouldn't they have memorized it by now?
  Despite these obstacles, I plan on reading the rest of the 6 book series. Perhaps I'll look up the characters and do some research before reading them to actually sit back and enjoy the complex story arc and characters. This book was just a bit much for me and I would not recommend reading this book when you have a cold or a foggy brain. It doesn't help at all.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong fantasy violence throughout the book. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan, The Magician by Michael Scott (Nicholas Flamel #2)
6 Responses
  1. Mks Says:

    Hey Rum,

    The Flamels needed the book because the formula changed each time. They need it to continue making the formula and stay alive.

    Melissa :)

  2. Thanks for the clarification, Melissa. Was that explained in the book and I just missed it or do you find out later? I don't remember this part at all.

  3. Jenny Says:

    The characters in this one sound fabulous, it's too bad you have to work so hard to find background on the mythology. There's such a fine line for authors in terms of informing readers, on the one hand we want to be informed about things that are unfamiliar to us, but we also don't want to drown in descriptions because that gets boring. I don't envy authors having to walk that line! Nice review as always Rummanah:)

  4. Thanks, Jenny. I don't expect pages full of background info, but at least a couple of sentences to get a better grasp of who is who and how they are connected to one another. I know it's such a hard line for authors- you don't want to spell it all out because you'd like to give the reader some credit but you also don't want them in the dark too.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    My 12 year old understood it as well as i did.

  6. I tore through these books on my last holiday. A refreshing break from reality. Fast paced, great characters, and appropriate for any age!

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