Fri 27 Mar 2009
Michael Scott is still an expert in Irish folktales and mythology, as far as I know. Last week I reviewed the first book in this series, which I believe was his first book for YAs. The third, The Sorceress, is due in May. His other books include collaborations with well-known authors (and actors) including Morgan Llewellyn, who is also famous for her novels about Ireland — both historical and historical fantasy. I can only imagine the exactitude that two such scholars would bring to their works. Another one of his works, Whom the Gods Love, is set in ancient Etruria prior to the height of the Roman Empire; apparently his was the first set in such a time period.
Since this is a book 2, then I will cut here. Josh and Sophie are twins, and they’ve done everything together — until now. Sophie’s magical powers were awakened in book 1, but not Josh’s, and he feels left out. They’ve travelled magically to Paris to save their lives and that of Nicolas Flamel, the alchemyst, whose book containing the elixir of life has been stolen. He’s now aging and will die if they can’t get the book back so he can make more of the potion before month’s end. In Paris, they encounter Niccolo Machiavelli, also immortal, and the Count St. Germain. Machiavelli is unfortunately on the side of the people who stole the book, and he and John Dee are chasing after the twins — who might be the twins from a prophecy. Will they survive?
While the plot is fairly active, I realized while writing this that not much happens until the very end (and I’m not giving that away). Things happen — a lot of them — but they don’t really advance the overall plot all that much. That having been said, what I enjoyed the most about this book was the characters and the character development. Sophie and Josh actually develop a glimmering of personality, and they actually start to differentiate themselves from each other. More importantly, Nicolas Flamel gains some depth and turns into a much rounder character. When the reader started to understand that his motivations were more than just the obvious, I started liking him more.
The characters who are new in this book — Machiavelli, St. German, and St. Germain’s wife, Joan of Arc — are even more wonderful than learning more about our old friends. If Machiavelli had survived into this century, I feel confident that he would be exactly how Mr. Scott describes him. He was so ambiguous and yet exactly there that he stole the show for me. I expect that St. Germain will be a favorite with many readers; based on the semi-historical figure, he’s currently very stereotypically French (think Lumiere in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) and very flamboyant, which is sort of interesting for an immortal who needs to keep a certain amount of privacy. Joan of Arc is great, too, albeit described as “the tiny Frenchwoman” too many times for my tastes. She and Scathach have a great, long-term friendship that shows us a slightly different side of both women.
I’m sure this is an important installment, and I’m sure the threads that Mr. Scott has set up will eventually weave into the larger story seamlessly, but this felt very much like a middle book in a trilogy to me. (The series is supposed to have six parts, eventually.) I’m glad he introduced new characters and expanded upon the old ones, because without it, the book might have fallen a bit flat. I’ll certainly be looking for the next volume, partially to see how far we’ll get in the story, but mostly to revisit with the characters I enjoy so much. I’d recommend it to fans of the first book, but it certainly can’t be read on its own. Those looking for a series shouldn’t skip it. 3.5/5 stars.