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The Alchemyst: The Secrets of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel
Michael Scott
Random House/Delacourt, 400 pages

The Alchemyst
Michael Scott
Michael Scott began writing over twenty-five years ago, and is thought to be one of Ireland's most successful and prolific authors, with one hundred titles to his credit, spanning a variety of genres, including Fantasy, Science Fiction and Folklore. He writes for both adults and young adults and is published in thirty-seven countries, in twenty languages. He is considered one of the authorities on the folklore of the Celtic lands and is credited with the resurgence of interest in the subject in the mid-80s. His collections, Irish Folk & Fairy Tales, Irish Myths & Legends and Irish Ghosts & Hauntings have remained continuously in print for the past twenty years.

Michael Scott Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Magician

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dan Shade

Fifteen-year-old twins, Sophie and Josh Newman, find themselves in a world of hurt when they befriend a seven-hundred-year-old Alchemyst, Nicholas Flamel. While in his bookstore, they are attacked by Golems, men created out of mud, that are controlled by the infamous Dr. John Dee. As they come to Flamel and his wife's support, they save the day by inadvertently providing the opportunity to fight another day.

Also central to the story and forever lost, it seems, is an ancient book called the Codex. It is a book of spells compiled by Abraham the Mage. Whether this is the same Abraham out of the Old Testament is a mystery but I like to think it is. It gives me a point of reference. The Codex contains many spells that require the book to be performed. The print on the pages is never static but always moving and changing. One of them is the spell of immortality. This is how Nicholas has kept himself young and alive for over seven centuries. Dr. Dee steals the book. Yet Dee's work is foiled as he pulls the book from Josh's hand the last two pages remain with Josh. Nicholas, Sophie and Josh go on the run to keep the last pages out of Dr. Dee's hands. Dee and Flamel have been harassing each other for centuries. Dee takes Flamel's wife, Perry, as prisoner. I'm sure he'll try to use her against Flamel in another adventure.

The book comes to a climax with the attack of Dr. Dee's army on the dwelling of the member of the Elder Race whom Nicholas Flamel has called upon to help keep the twins safe by awakening the magic within them. Her name is Hekate and she can control all living things. Nicholas and his friends are grossly outnumbered. As long as Flamel has the last two pages of the Codex, Dee will pursue him. Dee is not alone in his attack. He is accompanied by an evil Elder and an evil second generation Elder; one who control birds and the other can control cats. The birds do a pecking job on Flamel's car on the way to Hekate's sanctuary. By the time they arrive, it has been covered with holes and the glass shattered. Birds that can peck through the metal of a car are quite a hazard to me. The cats never seem to do more than get underfoot.

The teen twins, Sophie and Josh, are central to the story. The Codex foretells of the coming of twins with auras of gold and silver who will be very important in the last days. One will have the power to create and the other the power to destroy. Together they will save the world. Once Flamel realizes that Sophie and Josh are these twins, his main goal is to save them.

Nicholas Flamel is an Alchemyst, not a magician but during this time he wishes he had studied more magic. Fortunately, he recruited some help along the way who prove to be useful. How about a two thousand year old Vampire-Ninja for one? In fact, some of these secondary characters are more interesting to me than the main ones as they are a bit more colorful and flamboyant. Together they manage to escape to another Elder and awaken part of the powers of Sophie. Josh does what he can by driving the Hummer and crushing things.

Let's turn to the Elder Race for a moment. These are beings that were here before we humans. They may have been responsible for the creation of our planet. The Elder Race is presented as all-knowing and all-powerful beings. Yet, nowhere are the elders represented in such a way. They are immature, back-stabbing, petty and not so powerful as one would suspect. Since they can't agree on anything they are unable to present a united front. Another factor about the Elder Race is that they can't abide iron. Perhaps because it is a forged by man or just because of its properties. Iron is to the Elders as Kryptonite is to Superman. Hekate should have been able to hold back Dee's army with one hand but she was either unable or unwilling.

This is a fun book to read and I highly recommend it. Personally, I can't wait to read the sequels but it may be some time before I review those. There are so many worthy books! The character development is good and the reading is smooth sailing. Perhaps because it's a young adult novel and perhaps because Michael Scott is one of Ireland's most successful authors. He has been hailed by the Irish Times as "the King of Fantasy in these isles (book flyleaf)". He certainly lives up to his fame with this first volume of a long series.

The book has another redeeming value to me. The cost of using magic is explained on page 41. Using magic takes the same amount of calories as running a marathon. In this particular worldview, it takes the magic from the power field of one's aura. It's also compared to draining a battery. So the cost of using magic is weakness of one's aura making the magic wielder more susceptible to danger. The use of magic always has a price and I'm not pleased when a book character can run around wielding magic for free. That's like guns that never empty in an old western. You know they only hold six bullets but the good guy just keeps shooting away. You can't do that and maintain believability. Just working an 8-hour shift at McDonald's takes energy (and a lot of guts). Why would using magic be any different?

You will enjoy this book. The twins are great characters who have a strong bond of love. They lookout for each other and protect each other as needed. What a wonderful sibling relationship is represented in Sophie and Josh. Nicolas Flamel and Perry also have had a great marriage for the past 500 years (it must be great to last that long). So, the book is teeming with good role models for youth and older readers as well. I say teeming because there are other characters worth emulating in the book. Enjoy yourselves.

Copyright © 2010 by Dan Shade

Dan Shade is a retired college professor who loves to read young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But he doesn't draw the line there. He also enjoys writing science fiction and hopes to publish someday. In the meantime, you can find him at (under construction).

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