The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael ScottThe cover art of The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel caught my eye at the library and the back cover copy intrigued me:

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. And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.

From the publisher’s fansite

It was a quick read but took me a while because there was little oomph. It’s difficult to describe, but I knew the first book was a set-up for the series, and so it had to end with some sort of cliffhanger. Once reading a few chapters, this foreknowledge meant that I realized many of the problems introduced would not be solved, and I really didn’t have the energy to commit to another series. It’s not to say it was badly written, or poorly developed, but it is definitely for a young YA audience, trying to capitalize on the popularity of Harry Potter.

Other than these plot issues, the only other thing that bothered me was a minor pet peeve. The two main characters are brother and sister—twins, actually—who have had to rely on each other and be the grown-ups because their parents travel for work. Unfortunately, I felt that their general relationship just didn’t ring true, some of their interactions felt forced and unnatural. For example, the amount of times one twin “tenderly” or “carefully” place their hand on the other twin’s arm. At 15, I don’t care if you’re really close siblings, you’re not going to want to touch your brother/sister. In fact, most teens around that age are pushing away from their siblings.

It was quick, enjoyable, and the writing wasn’t bad. I don’t think I’ll pick up any of the subsequent books, but Michael Scott is being touted as Ireland’s King of Fantasy. If your tween or early YA reader is looking for a new series to sink their teeth into, The Alchemyst is not a bad choice.

  • The Alchemyst was published in 2007 and is the first in a series of six fantasy novels, released one per year. The final title—The Enchantress—was released this year (2012).