Review: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott (2007)

Alchemyst The Alchemyst by Michael Scott
Publication: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (May 22, 2007), Hardback, 400 pages / ISBN 0385733577
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Find @ Amazon or IndieBound
Challenges: 2009 Support Your Local Library Challenge (#4)
First sentence: I am legend.

I’ve seen this book (and its sequel) hanging out in various bookstores, and though the cover is very attractive (the colors!), I had my doubts the inside would live up to the outside. Then I found it lurking at my library and I decided to take a chance and check it out. Turns out it’s pretty much what I expected: not bad, but not fantastic, either.

Summary from Amazon:

He holds the secret that can end the world.

The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 1330. Nearly 700 years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life.

The records show that he died in 1418.

But his tomb is empty.

The legend: Nicholas Flamel lives. But only because he has been making the elixir of life for centuries. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects—the Book of Abraham the Mage. It’s the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. That’s exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it.

Sometimes legends are true.

And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.

The problem is that it’s got a lot of cliches, and a lot of New Age-y stuff that I can’t stand. Auras! Alchemy! Atlantis! Gods are actually superbeings that existed before humans! Bloody Kirlian photography, for Pete’s sake. I can normally ignore those things if the writing and story are good enough, like with the Septimus Heap series, but unfortunately that isn’t the case here. I think this is the fourth book I’ve read this year with super special twins? It gets tiring. I was happy to see that one of the characters– Perry, Nicholas’s wife– was the 7th daughter of a 7th daughter, which I’ve been hoping someone would do! So that was a happy moment for me. There weren’t many others.

I didn’t really like the characters, though I could sympathize with them. Especially when poor Josh lost his computer and his phone. Gah! And when the twins Googled information to verify Nicholas’ claims? Ha. Also Sophie has a blog. So, yes, I could sympathize with their internet addictions. Otherwise, I didn’t like them.

Also poor John Dee is a villain yet again. Is there a book out there with him as a good guy? At the end of the book, in the extra bits, Mr. Scott talks about how he was originally going to have John Dee be the hero– obviously he didn’t, but how did John Dee become the villain? It’s a bit disappointing, actually. Maybe he’ll do an alliance shift in later books, I dunno.

I will say that things got rather exciting towards the end, exciting enough that I may hunt down the second book to read, but it was a struggle to get there. The entire book reads like a primer to What New Agers Believe, and I’m just not into that. Not that I mind a bit of gods-are-real-and-they-can-read-your-aura, or even a bit of alchemy, but it was, well, boring. It wasn’t magical. It was a mixture of things that could have been interesting but turned into a mess instead, like a poorly baked cake. I felt like I had seen it all before, and that’s not a good feeling.

I’m not saying don’t give the book a chance. You might like it! And the subsequent books might be better. I may have numbed myself to the New Age crap enough that I can even enjoy them– who knows? But I am saying: check it out from your library first, in case it’s not what you expected.

Other reviews: Jane on Books | Luaan @ Livejournal | Jen Robinson’s Book Page

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