Monday, 3 October 2011

Review: The Alchemyst - Michael Scott

Extent: 375 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Children's
Pub Date: 24th May 2007

The tomb of Nicholas Flamel is empty. The greatest alchemist of his day supposedly died in 1418, but rumors continue to swirl that he continues to walk among us. Could it be true that this magician/chemist has access to the secret of eternal life? Could the Book of Abraham, which he purportedly owns, hold the key to this elixir? If it does, the theft of this single ancient volume could destroy the world as we know it. An exciting tale.

Well, this one must have been one heck of a research job! I love a good dose of mythology and in The Alchemyst, Michael Scott seems to have pulled on the full resources of myth and folklore, dredging up long forgotten characters in tales of old to create an incredibly comprehensive world of magic. More than that, he has brought these legends right up to date, making them relevant to the modern audience. I love the way these ancient and incredibly powerful creatures are at home with mobile phones and eBay.

The best characters in The Alchemyst are actually the adult characters, especially Dr John Dee – he’s probably the best developed and the one that is easiest to conjure up in the imagination. And besides I love a good baddy! However, this brings me to the two main teen characters, Josh and Sophie. I’m afraid to say that I just don’t like them. They are supposed to have two of the rarest auras which in the history of humanity are only found on those with incredible talent, intelligence or courage but the twins are two of the most stupid, wet characters I’ve ever come across in a book. There are great chunks of the plot that are dedicated to their stupidity which could have been completely cut and would have made me feel a little better about the pace of the story. I like my heroes to have a bit of spark, a bit of something that you can identify with, even if it’s a flaw, that makes them hard not to like but if the twins were a colour they would be a particularly wet shade of grey. I actually found myself cheering on Dee at one point because I wanted the stupid twins to fail and preferably die and for two new likeable characters to pop into their shoes and actually be a bit effective.

It’s possible that Michael Scott meant them to be like this and in the next books they are going to have personality overhauls, which they better because at the moment I’m really torn. I love the world that Michael Scott has created but I hate the heroes and at times the writing can be a bit young and cliché. I have to keep reminding myself that the twins are in fact 15 so that’s about the target audience but they can be very childish and the writing is hitting a bit low on the target. 15-year-olds (and I!) need to be stimulated a bit with edgy, clever writing but sometimes it just gets a bit too predictable.

So, this is a bit of an internal marmite book for me – I both love it and dislike it. I’m hoping the twins are going to get a bit of a grip in the next book because I do really like the story – if they could just grow some spine and stop having panic attacks whenever one of them gets a scratch or chips a nail that would suit me fine!

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