The Alchemyst, The Secrets Of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel: Michael Scott
“An ancient book is lost. The modern world could be ripped apart at the seams.”
The Alchemyst: The Secrets Of Nicholas Flamel is the first in a brand new series starring The Immortal Nicholas Flamel (of Harry Potter fame). Released through Kids At Random House publishing, it’s aimed at the young adult market and, as seems to be the norm with this kind of age targetted book, has two fifteen year old siblings, Sophie and Josh Newman.
On their summer break in San Francisco, they take jobs and end up working across the street from one another, her in a coffee shop, him in a book shop which is owned by husband and wife, Perry and Nick (who is infact Nicholas). The action starts immediately, with some animated men made from mud attacking the bookshop, capturing Perry and stealing a rare book called the Codex. Luckily, Josh manages to grab the last two, and most important pages as it’s snatched away.
The Codex contains magical wisdom, and most disturbingly to Josh and Sophie, a prophecy about ‘twins’. They learn that Nicholas is a 14th century alchemist who has been hiding out and laying it low, with his wife Perry, since discovering the secret to immortality.
Attempting to recover the book and Nicholas’ wife, they encounter mythical beings, mythical places and some glowing characters: An Irish woman warrior, trained in martial arts, in the body of a young girl. A greek Hekate - The Morrigan and a poweful Egyptian cat-goddess Bastet to name but a few.
Reading The Alchemyst, at times, can be a bit daunting because you are faced with so many different cultures and myths that it gets a bit muddy. It’s a hot-pot of too many strong flavours to properly appreciate any single one.
What disappointed me was that there is no alchemy, no mixing of substances. The striking cover of ye olde manuscript paper, golden inked runes and an ancient test tube with a dubious green mist floating upward is not really a reflection of the contents of the book. Granted, there are occasions where magic is let loose, but this is emitted from hands and such like. No creating diamonds out of coal, or gold out of metal here. Talking of magic, the narration coungers up some impressive images of electricity let rip and alternate dimensions falling apart.
Throughout the book there are links to history in which Nicholas is said to have been a part of - the Great Fire Of London for example. It is only at the back of the book, in the author’s notes, that it is revealed Nicholas Flamel did actually exist in past times. There’s a picture of the Auberge Nicolas Flamel (the Nicholas Flamel Hostel) on Rue du Montmorency, Paris, where Michael drew his inspiration for the story.
Included after the author’s notes is chapter one of The Magician: Book Two Of The Secrets Of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel, and that, dear reader, is where the science fiction kicks in.