Never one to pass up free books, I downloaded a Kindle version of The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel for free. But it was far down the TBR list. My wife, however, read it and enjoyed it. This piqued my interest and one night I started reading it to “see what it was all about.”
It turned out to be a grand adventure. Not the most believable story, for sure, but imaginative and entertaining.
Here is the PW review to give you a flavor:
Twin 15-year-old siblings Sophie and Josh Newman take summer jobs in San Francisco across the street from one another: she at a coffee shop, he at a bookstore owned by Nick and Perry Fleming. In the vey first chapter, armed goons garbed in black with “dead-looking skin and… marble eyes” (actually Golems) storm the bookshop, take Perry hostage and swipe a rare Book (but not before Josh snatches its two most important pages). The stolen volume is the Codex, an ancient text of magical wisdom. Nick Fleming is really Nicholas Flamel, the 14th-century alchemist who could turn base metal into gold, and make a potion that ensures immortality. Sophie and Josh learn that they are mentioned in the Codex’s prophecies: “The two that are one will come either to save or to destroy the world.” Mayhem ensues, as Irish author Scott draws on a wide knowledge of world mythology to stage a battle between the Dark Elders and their hired gun—Dr. John Dee—against the forces of good, led by Flamel and the twins (Sophie’s powers are “awakened” by the goddess Hekate, who’d been living in an elaborate treehouse north of San Francisco). Not only do they need the Codex back to stop Dee and company, but the immortality potion must be brewed afresh every month. Time is running out, literally, for the Flamels. Proceeding at a breakneck pace, and populated by the likes of werewolves and vampires, the novel ends on a precipice, presumably to be picked up in volume two.
To me this was not one of those works where the author creates an amazingly complex and believable world or worldview that sucks you in. Instead, it was an imaginative conceit – the existence of Elders, the truth of alchemy, etc. – that set up and action adventure series. The hook works because you don’t think about it too much; you just accept it and follow where the action leads.
The battle between good and evil is interesting and keeps the story moving at a nice pace. And there is just enough mystery and new characters to keep the reader wanting to know more. And if you enjoy mythology it is fun to see how Scott ties it all together.
This kind of young adult adventure series is perfect for bedtime reading after a stressful day. I have already started The Magician and plan to read the whole series. If, like me, you were not aware of it I recommend it as a fun read.