Here is how I descirbed the first book in Michael Scott’s The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series (The Alchemyst):
It turned out to be a grand adventure. Not the most believable story, for sure, but imaginative and entertaining.
I think that was an accurate statement, but interestingly enough, this series has really grown on me. The second book, The Magician, turned out to be a even faster paced and more engaging read.
Here is Booklists take:
The Alchemyst (2007), the first book in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, introduced a wide-ranging group of historical figures who have achieved immortality and are engaged in a present-day struggle for the fate of the world. This second entry picks up exactly where the first left off. Allied with the legendary Nicholas Flamel on the “good” side are teenage twins Sophie and Josh, who are supremely gifted but with powers that are untrained. Countering them is a new archvillain, Niccolò Machiavelli, who, along with other figures from history and legend (Joan of Arc, a trio of Valkyries), swells the already impressive cast. Plundering every imaginable culture of their heroes and heroines is a clever feat, sure to draw all manner of historically and mythologically minded readers. One weakness starts to show through, however. In a six-book series such as this, each installment begins to feel like a lengthy, glorified chapter rather than its own book complete with a satisfying story arc and resolution. That said, this keeps the pace as an exciting and impeccably thought-out fantasy, well suited for those left in the lurch by Harry Potter’s recent exeunt.
I think Booklist captures the pros and cons of this series well. As noted, the overall plot is of course ridiculous – as any conspiracy that purports to explain the history of the universe and involves mankind being kept in the dark for millenia is bound to be. And the books have the feel more of large chapter books rather than stand alone novels.
But once you plunge into them and accept these limits they are really great entertainment. You are just focused on the characters – the reoccurring ones and the ones that Scott keeps blending in – and the race to capture Flamel and the twins. Scott keeps enough murkey that there is good tension – wondering where everyone’s loyalty lies and what trap might be sprung when you aren’t looking.
Scott has taken a clever hook and managed to keep both the pace and the interest in the characters and the larger story line over the course of a number of large books. That is not as easy as it looks. It would have been easy for the creativity to dry up and the story to bog down – or for the reader to get tired of the chase – but I found myself furtively reading every chance I get to find out what was going to happen next and to find some clues about the larger mystery at the heart of the battle for the fate of earth.
But at its most basic it is really just a good fantasy action adventure story. Interesting good guys and bad guys – and somewhere in between – battling it out across the world using magical powers and the knowledge gained from immortality. Basic stuff: good versus evil on an epic scale.
My wife and I have both now plowed through the series and are annoyed we have to wait until May 2010 for the next book. So if you haven’t yet discovered it, I recommend the series for those that love fantasy action adventures (young or old).
For more information also see the Random House site.
Note to authors and publicists: giving away the first book in order to entice readers to read and purchase the whole series works. This is exactly how I came to be a fan. Free Kindle version of the first book led me to buy the next book.