The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

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The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A high-octane hybrid of thriller, fantasy and picaresque, and brimful of mythological and historical reference, this is a well-written, pacy and fun book for junior lovers of excitement and magic. Its wealth of detail may just be a little too trainspotterish for reluctant readers.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: May 2007
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 978-0385612937

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Sophie and Josh are spending the summer in San Francisco while their archaeologist parents are off on a dig. Sophie is working in a coffee shop and Josh has a job in the bookshop opposite. Things are jogging along nicely. Until, that is, Dr John Dee and his mud-man golems appear and steal a book from Nick Fleming, Josh's employer. Nick, it appears, has been hiding his true identity. He is none other than the fourteenth century alchemist Nicholas Flamel, the man who discovered the secret of turning base metal into gold and the recipe for the elixir of eternal life. The book stolen by Dr John Dee is none other than the Book of Abraham, the Codex which contains all the alchemist's secrets and more besides. Josh and Sophie's presence is no accident either - they are the twins of ancient prophecy with magical auras of pure silver and gold. If anyone can prevent Dr John Dee from summoning the Dark Elders to destroy mankind, it is them. And so, the race is on.

I enjoyed The Alchemyst. It's well-written and buys into the current fad for mixing ancient prophecies and renaissance secrets into modern-day thrillers without cheapening the output at all - as so many of the adult books are doing. The rather shadowy historical figure of John Dee works extremely well as a twenty first century Bond-style villain and the ancient alchemist, Nicholas Flamel, really comes to life as one of the goodies. I think this "casting" was inspired. The twins have an interesting relationship that's very close and loyal outwardly but is beset by very recognisable stresses and jealousies internally. Children's books so often capture these kinds of relationships so much better than their adult counterparts and The Alchemyst is a great example of this. The whole thing is also awesomely researched.

My son, who grabbed The Alchemyst almost before I'd got it out of the packaging and read it over just two evenings, is raving about it. He loves the stories of myth and legend and he loved Scott's conceit that the deities and heroes from all the various traditions are all part of one - true! - past that has faded from our minds except in stories. He's even discovered a few new sources of myth to investigate and I think we might well be investing in some of Scott's books on Irish mythology very soon. He doesn't quite believe in the auric energy device, but he sure as cookies wishes it were true.

However enthusiastic my son is, though, he is also an absolute geek. He likes books that contain references he can either recognise or follow up on later. He likes series. He likes detail. He loves a cliffhanger and the excited wait for the next book. I think that reluctant readers might not be quite so keen. There's an awful lot going on in The Alchemyst, and much of it is setting up the reader for subsequent volumes in the series. This will appeal less to children who find reading an effort. It's a well-written, delightful story with some great characters and a lot of magic, but is probably best suited to enthusiastic fans of fantasy. And for them, it's an absolutely marvellous piece of blockbusting aura power.

My thanks to the nice people at Doubleday for sending the book.

Children who like standalone books more than series might enjoy Frances Hardinge's Verdigris Deep and those who love magic that finds its way into the real world with some great action sequences will like Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant.

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Buy The Alchemyst by Michael Scott at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Alchemyst by Michael Scott at


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hermione1308 said:

This book is really cool, but, I never think it will be enemy of Harry Potter, cause we love it, both of it. ^^

samanthazeeks said:

I also loved this book very much. I can not wait til the next comes out. I thought the use of "real people and myths" was awesome. Great reading and I am dying to know when the next book comes out. :)