Fatherhood has its challenges. I was in the middle of reading a book that I planned to review for this site. My oldest daughter asked me if I would like to read the one she had just finished, as it was the best book ever, and I would really, really like it. Being distracted, I said, “Sure, honey, when I am done with this one.” I figured she would forget about it as soon as I did, which was pretty much immediately. So when I reached for a new tome from the prodigious pile I have in front of me, the caterwauling took me completely by surprise! It seemed as though she not only remembered, but that she was serious! Imagine my surprise!! So being a dutiful and loving Daddy, I acquiesced, albeit grudgingly. And I am so glad I did. I was introduced to a Gem hiding in the gravel pit of youth literature.
The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, is a delight for youths and adults alike. The book revolves around a set of 15-year-old fraternal twins, Josh and Sophie Newman, who are drawn into a battle of the ages. Legends come to life and ancient tales are revealed in their true light. Michael Scott uses the whole of human history, and a good deal of pre-history, to shape a modern world in which nothing we know is entirely true, and many things that we believe to be myth are reality.
The story opens with Josh working in the bookstore owned by 677 year old Nicholas Flamel, the pre-emanate Alchemyst of his time, who is living under the alias Nick Flemming. The action quickly commences when Flamels long time rival, Dr. John Dee, attacks the shop. Josh’s sister, who works in the cafe across the street, witnesses the violence and runs to help. In the conflict that follows, Flamel’s wife is captured, and the teenagers are forced to flee under his protection. Dee also captures an ancient manuscript which is the source of Flamel’s longevity. What is infinitely worse is that it is filled with secrets that can unleash the destruction of human life on the planet. All appears lost until it is discovered that Josh was able to save the last two pages of the ancient omnibus! They are, of course, critical!!
What ensues is a dizzying race against time and terrifyingly formidable foes. The twins are thrust into adventures where surprises lurk around every turn, and there seems to be no hope of simply surviving, let alone saving the world. The relevant histories of events and characters are presented in harmony with the flow of the action, and there is no wading through large blocks of “this is what you need to know” text. The readers get to know the characters naturally, as if you were truly along for the ride, and the pace never slows down.
One of the best things about this book is that, although it is tied to a character introduced in another very popular series, it doesn’t hitchhike on the domain created by Rowling. This is a truly original conception, and the world Scott constructs is very much his own. The feel of the book is current, very much in the here-and-now, and the “magic” is presented as simply another form of knowledge. Scott fashions an environment in which the reader can imagine himself being a part. I was able to place myself into situations, and lived the events along with the characters. And given the extraordinary and supernatural content of the tale, it has a plausibility that never set off my bullshit alarms.
If I have any complaint about this read, it’s that it’s only Book One of a series, and I’m left without knowing what happens next. And I really want to know! This book has been out for a while, with a copyright date of 2007, and the sequel, The Magician: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel was released in 2008. A quick search revealed that a movie based on the book is in pre-production, so it looks like we will be hearing a lot more about Mr. Scott and his wonderful creation.
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