Rated Reads

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel (book 1)

by Michael Scott

Rated: None

Alchemy or alchemists have gotten a bit more attention in literature in recent years. Paolo Coelho wrote a delightful fable titled The Alchemist about a boy searching for a treasure and learning about alchemy and life along the way. Anyone who has read the Harry Potter books knows about the Philosopher’s (or Sorcerer’s) Stone and the famed, long-living Nicholas Flamel. So Michael Scott is most likely riding a bit on some good timing that readers will prick up their ears, so to speak, at the title of his novel.

Given that background and perhaps those twists on alchemy, readers flocking to Scott’s young-adult novel might be a bit surprised by the turn the book takes right away towards all kinds of old legendary creatures from a variety of cultures: Bastet, the cat goddess; Scathach, a warrior goddess; Hekate, the goddess of three faces, and many others. All get involved quickly in a battle for possession of the earth; these Elder races, long in the wings as humans have been dominant on the earth, are ready again to oust the “humani” and rule again. So those who are expecting a tale set in the 14th century or involving just alchemy or old magic will be a bit surprised by the plot and style of the book.

Sophie and Josh Newman are twins living for the summer in San Francisco, working jobs at a café and a book shop to earn some money to buy a car for themselves — sometime. Their parents, noted archaeologists, are again off on a dig in another state. The teens find themselves enmeshed (in the first short chapter, no less — there’s not much by way of introduction or buildup) in a battle between the Elder race and Nicholas Flamel over possession of the book of Abraham the Mage, written thousands of years earlier and holding many secrets, just one of which is the formula for creating a potion for immortality and for transforming simple materials into gold. A powerful magician and necromancer, John Dee, who has also lived since the 16th century, now works for the Elders, and they will stop at nothing to get the book.

Naturally, the teens not only get involved and lend their own brand of help, but they also find out that they have particular roles to play, roles that will change their lives forever.

The novel is interesting and fairly entertaining. Sometimes it seems a bit self-aware somehow, but those who are interested in ancient cultures and legends might enjoy particularly the bringing together of those elements in one adventurous novel. And not only that one novel, but a whole series, for this one clearly just gets the story started.

Rated: None. There is no language, nothing suggestive, and no real violence, although there are battles between the good guys and bad guys.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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Book Review of The Alchemyst
  • The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel (book 1)
  • by Michael Scott
  • Rated: None
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: