The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel)
I stumbled upon this book in a major chain bookstore and found myself immediately drawn in by the cover art. I have to say, I’m so glad that it caught my eye. The language is as rich, the story is vivid, and the characters sparkle (not is a Twilight way). (It’s not okay that I just had to clarify that.)
We’ve all heard tales of Nicholas Flamel and his wife Perenelle, but Josh and Sophie Newman are the only humans in San Francisco who know where their bookshop is. On an otherwise pleasant morning, a large armored car pulls up outside of the bookshop, across the street from the coffee shop Sophie works in. She watches four men get out, three large men dressed in hats and heavy woolen trench coats and one small man in an immaculately tailored suit. Meeting eyes with the fourth man, Sophie decides that she doesn’t like this man very much. Her instinct, it turns out, is entirely accurate. A few minutes after these mysterious men enter the shop, an explosion of magic sends glass shards flying out into the street. Perenelle and Sophie rush over to the shop to discover that Josh and Nicholas have been fighting for their lives… and it won’t be the last time. Dr. Dee captures Perenelle and the Codex that the Flamels are responsible for. In their quest to recover the Codex and save Perenelle’s life before she dies, Sophie and Josh learn that they will never be normal fifteen year olds again.
In terms of action and thrill the story is a combination of The Davinci Code and Harry Potter. No matter where they go, there’s really never a respite from being attacked. Even when they’ve gotten to the place where they’ll be “safe”, they’re still in very mortal danger, though mostly from a moody goddess who doesn’t think twice about reducing a human into semi-sentient green goo. It’s grippingly exhilarating.
In terms of characters, they’re all written so richly that it’s hard to pick just one to focus on. On one hand you have Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel who already have a thoroughly epic mythos surrounding them, but Scott adds so much to their mythology. Protector of the Codex is one hell of a job title, but the way that the Flamels fit their job title so well is endearing and comforting. On the other hand you have Sophie and Josh, who were, if not completely normal teenagers, than at least teenagers who lived in the modern world with laptops and iPods, who didn’t believe in magic. In some ways, the way they stick together is the most heartening part of this story.
Here’s my favorite part of the story: as a person who has reveled in stories from history, historical figures show up everywhere in the story, from Joan of Arc to King Tut. It’s delightful to have all of the legends of the world appear in this story in a real way. The Great Fire of 1666 even makes an appearance. In some ways, I’m a little jealous of Michael Scott because he got to go through history and adapt it to his universe. I can’t imagine how much fun it would be to do that and it’s rewarding for more than just that author. It’s like a little scavenger hunt for the reader without any deleterious effect on the plot.
I only had one complaint about a character, but since it’s toward the end, I can’t tell you. It’s a complaint I’ve had before and I’m sure you’ll figure it out when you read the book.
This story is enchanting and vibrant. 4 ink bottles. Plus, if you like it as much as I do then you’ll be happy to know that it’s a series of six books, five of which are already out.