Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Alchemyst by Micheal Scott

The Irish King of Fantasy makes a blazing start to a saga based around the life and times of the mysterious Nicholas Flamel in The Alchemyst. This book has piqued my curiosity in the past and I was lucky to finally get around to reading it. How does it hold up against so many other modern fantasies that came out around this time? Well, let's dive right in.

The story tells of Josh and Sophie Newman, a pair of fifteen year old twins living in San Fransisco. Josh gets a job working at a bookstore with a mysterious Nick Flemming, but quite out of nowhere one day, he catches his boss and a mysterious stranger in the midst of an magic battle. It turns out that Nick is actually the legendary Nicholas Flamel, the immortal alchemist and the keeper of a mysterious book called the Codex. When Nicholas's wife, Perenelle, is kidnapped and the Codex is stolen, Nicholas whisks Josh and Sophie away from their everyday lives. He believes that they are part of an ancient prophecy and he must Awaken their magic potential and protect them from the nefarious Dr. John Dee.

First thing I noticed about this book sadly doesn't give off a very good first impression. It's very cliche at times. You've got the "normal" kids who turn out to be the "super-special-something-or-other" and "fate of the world depends on" blah blah blah. It's very formulaic in that it tries everything there is to try that you'd expect in a modern fantasy. Even the villain, who is based off a real life person who just so happened to be the first ever 007 (look it up), is reduced to a very generic bad guy who honestly spouts out phrases like "You have something of mine and I want it back", "Nobody can save you now", "Together, we shall rule the world", etc. It's the same dialogue that you find with any villain out there and it just takes the threat out of him.

Now that that is out of the way, I can say that this book definitely does have a plus side. That being the characters and the characterizations of the ancient creatures used in this book. Many of the beings and places used in this book are based off real characters from several different mythologies come together. I'm a bit of a sucker for mythology so seeing so many different characters come together in one story was actually pretty cool. Very much the same way that the Percy Jackson books pulled this off (and, yes, I'm getting to those later) each character has a lot of spice and an interesting modern twist on it. The Warrior of Irish lore is a teenager who uses nunchucks against dead people, Bastet the Egyptian Cat Goddess and turn the cutest kitty into a ferocious human-cat hybrid and so forth. Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel are also really interesting characters. They're never really together in this book, but you can see they each have their strengths and weaknesses and how flawlessly they work together, to warn the other of danger and so forth. They're all really interesting and really well done.

Then we have the main characters, Sophie and Josh. Much like in The Land of Stories I reviewed awhile back, it's the female twin who is the more enthusiastic about this adventure where the male twin is a bit more grudging. Unlike The Land of Stories's Conner, Josh's reluctance to take part in the story is a bit more annoying. Maybe it's because he's a teenager or something, but every single twist and turn of this story has him complaining and demanding to go back to their normal lives, despite knowing a bunch of Elder Gods want to kill him. He also is prone to having these "I don't trust you" tantrums with Flamel that tend to just make me roll my eyes. It gets to the point where the villains do everything short of offering him cookies to come over to their side. I won't give away how this is resolved, of course, but it's hinted how it will play out ultimately. There are four more books in this series so I'll have to see how it plays out.

Final Verdict
Much like Sophie and Josh, there are hots and colds to this book. I didn't hate it at all, don't get me wrong, but there are flaws to it and some things that I've just seen done better in other stories. On the other hand, it's rich with history and mystery and mythology. Things that I really enjoy and really manage to spice up the story. There were twists I didn't expect and ones that I did. Ultimately I'm going to say that this one is probably worth checking out at your local library. I do plan to read the sequels to this book and do hope the rating picks up in the future.

Next Time: Kutesosh gajair'is!

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