Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Review: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

Title: The Alchemyst

Author: Michael Scott

Number of Pages: 369

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Review: The Alchemyst is the first book in the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series. The book introduces the story of a pair of fraternal twins (Sophie and Josh) who find themselves thrust into an epic and perilous struggle for ownership of a magic book of world-changing secrets, recipes, and prophecies. Nicholas Flamel, an alchemist (yes, I'm using the modern "American" spelling of the term), has lived for several centuries, protecting the book and using its recipe for the elixir of life to live forever. Now, Dr. John Dee seeks to usurp the book and its secrets for darker purposes.

The main plotline is fast-paced and fairly direct. Occasionally, with fantasy literature you come across books with complex, multi-threaded plots with so many characters, places, and events that the story becomes cumbersome and difficult to follow. In The Alchemyst, Scott keeps the story uncomplicated, and even when the book darts between multiple locations and character perspectives, these diverging threads are still strongly linked to the central plot involving this "Book of the Mage."

The author employs a writing style that is easy-to-read, but also contains flashes of sophistication in word choice and imagery. It's a style that actually seems to parallel the juxtoposition of modern and magic in the story. One of my only complaints is that some of the "flashback" passages, where the author describes a character's history to provide insight into his/her thoughts or emotions, seem to be inserted rather clumsily into the story. Many of these nods to a character's past are just interjected abruptly in the middle of the main story's progression. I would have liked to see more thought and organization put into their presentation.

My other real beef with the book is that the ending is too much of a cliffhanger. There is very little closure for the reader, and I don't really think the book can stand alone as its own story. With all of the loose ends left after reading the final page, it's basically mandatory that you read the next book to see what happens next. I suspect this is a theme that continues until the final book.

History buffs will either love or hate the many references to historical figures, ancient mythology, and legends. The author puts his own twist on all of the references he incorporates into his book. Even main characters, such as Nicholas Flamel and Dr. John Dee, were real people in history. I personally thought that the references were fun, if a bit hokey at times. I will say that the author's knowledge of all of these people, philosophies, customs, and locations mentioned in his book is rather impressive.

Overall, I found the book compelling with lots of fun twists on historical references. I will definitely continue to read Michael Scott's other books to see how Nicholas Flamel's story pans out.

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