The Alchemyst (Nicolas Flamel, book 1), by Michael Scott

Michael Scott, generic who is Irish, apparently usually writes books for adults; he seems to have written some in conjunction with Morgan Llewellyn and Armin Shimerman. A good deal of his books are about Ireland, and he is considered an expert on Irish folktales and mythology. He is also a screenwriter; he worked for the company who produced Riverdance, as well as scripting importnat events such as the Special Olympics, when they were held in Ireland in 2002, and the Irish Film & Television Awards. A couple years ago, he published the first book in a six-part series for young adults; the series has been optioned by New Line Films. The second volume — The Magician — has already been released, and book 3 (The Sorceress) comes out in late May of this year.

Sophie and Josh Newman are fifteen-year-old twins, spending the summer in San Francisco with a great-aunt while their parents, both archaeologists, go off on a dig. Josh has a job at a bookstore, and Sophie at the coffee and tea shop across the street. One day, someone comes in and attacks Nick Fleming, the owner of the bookstore, steals a magical tome from him, and kidnaps his wife, Perry. Unfortunately, the twins get involved enough that Nick Fleming — who is actually Nicolas Flamel — believes they are in danger, and takes them with him. They must get the book back within a month, or the Flamels will die. Also, there’s a strange prophecy about twins — could that mean them?

Nicolas Flamel, for those of you with steel-trap memories, played an important role in the first Harry Potter book, but he never quite came on screen. In that book, and this one, Mr. Flamel is the only man ever to make the Philosopher’s Stone, and in both books, the Philosopher’s Stone creates an elixir that gives eternal life — when taken faithfully every month. He was born in the 1300s, and according to Mr. Scott, flew under a lot of radars in order to live until current times. He’d been a bookseller back during his standard lifespan, when he met his wife, and practiced the trade at various times over the years, until he ended up in current San Francisco.

The characters were probably the strength of the book; the plot was the usual ‘normal-kids-are-prophesied-to-save-world’ stuff that I’ve read a thousand times already. However, we’ve got the twins, who are sort of interesting, but have potential. Josh is a technology nut, and Sophie likes smelling things. I can certainly see that in the future, they’ll gain more personality traits, but at the moment, they’re sort of blank slates — in more ways than one. Mr. Flamel and his wife were probably the best characters in the book — Nicolas a strong but gentle intellect in so many ways, and Perenelle (Perry) the ruthless one. Other than that, Scathach (who seems to think that being called ‘Scatty’ is acceptable) stole many scenes, and I look forward to seeing more of her.

The book wasn’t perfect. The plot was a bit on the standard side. The twins’ parents had to be extremely permissive or non-existent, so they were given incredibly absent-minded-professor personalities. I doubt we’ll ever see them again. The whole idea of the book is rather similar to The Akhenaten Adventure, except for the fact that the latter book confines itself to Egyptian locales and mythology, and The Alchemyst seems to cover a pan-mythological view of the world. The bad guys are Really Bad, and the good guys are Really Good — even when they’re vampires and witches. I’d be happy to see more ambiguity in the future volumes, as well as a little more depth to the story and the characters. Still, it was enjoyable, and I do look forward to reading the second volume. 3.5/5 stars.

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