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The Alchemyst

The Alchemyst


by Michael Scott

The Alchemyst Introduction

In a Nutshell

Imagine you are a teenager, working in a bookstore or coffee shop. You know, the usual. Then, BAM! One day you realize you have magical powers. Awesome? Absolutely. That's just what happens in today's book, and we're only talking about the first few chapters. Just imagine the possibilities.

The Alchemyst is the first book of the tremendously popular fantasy series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, written by Michael Scott (no, not that Michael Scott). Published in 2007, it tells the story of two totally ordinary twins, Josh and Sophie, in San Francisco who one day find themselves caught up in one of the greatest secrets of history—the centuries-long fight between "two incredibly ancient magicians" (5.14) for control of the book of Abraham the Mage. Phew, what a mouthful.

Don't know what the book of Abraham the Mage is yet? Never fear. Just know that it's a Very Important Book (a VIB), with all kinds of juicy secrets and magical miracles. In their quest to protect the secret of life the book contains, Josh and Sophie face all the terrifying creatures, warriors, and gods of myth and legend. That's right, folks, sometimes myth and legend are all too real.

Or at least so thinks author Michael Scott. He's an acclaimed folklorist in his own right, which means he gets to study the traditions of particular people in story, song, custom, and belief. In fact, he's quite the expert, and he puts that expertise to good use here. Nearly all of the characters in The Alchemyst (except for the twins) were real people, or were based on actual legends. As alchemyst Nicholas Flamel tells the teens, "Everything you have been taught, all the myths and legends of your world, have a kernel of truth in them" (15.58).

You know what that means, Shmoopers. You could be just like the twins—working a normal, boring job one day, discovering your magical powers the next. After reading this first book of the best-selling series, you just might conclude that anything is possible.

No wonder these books are so popular. Since its publication, the Nicholas Flamel series (which includes The Alchemyst, The Magician, The Sorceress, The Necromancer, and The Warlock) has taken the world by storm. The last book of the six-book series, The Enchantress, came out in 2012 (source). Interactive online games produced by Random House to promote the releases of books in the series attract tons of gamers (see our "Best of the Web" to play), and there's even a movie in the works, produced by the man who brought us Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Salt (source).

So we know it's action-packed, right? But what else makes people love it so much? Well, young readers love it for its action and magic, and parents and teachers appreciate that the plot centers on characters drawn from actual historical events and myths. As School Library Journal tells us, "While there is plenty to send readers rushing to their encyclopedias [...] those who read the book at face value will simply be caught up in the enthralling story. A fabulous read" (source).

What are you waiting for? Grab your book and get lost in the legend.


Why Should I Care?

Did you ever wonder why certain legends have stuck around, or why so many different cultures' myths have such striking similarities? Take vampires, for example. These mythical bloodsuckers have existed in legends for centuries—right up to our present-day fixation with Twilight. Witches and wizards, too, have been around for millennia, as any Harry Potter fan would know. And entire civilizations have worshiped gods and goddesses with magical powers since, well, ever.

But why be obsessed with this stuff in the first place? Could it be, as Flamel says in The Alchemyst, that these myths and legends have a grain of truth at their heart? That might explain where these stories come from, but it certainly doesn't explain why, in the world of modern science and technology, we're still drawn to the magic and mysterious.

Let's face it: science and technology have advanced so much that you can pretty much find anything you need to know with the click of a mouse. We know why the sky is blue, why the sun is hot, and why echoes, well, echo. But with all these mysteries solved, it's easy to miss the magic. What once seemed miraculous is now mundane. Boring, even.

So it makes sense that books like Michael Scott's The Alchemyst tempt us. Wouldn't it be cool if you could leave your ordinary life behind and discover all the magic beneath the everyday? Ancient mythology and old events in history suddenly don't seem so dusty and out-of-date if the stories they contain could help reveal the secrets of your present. The Alchemyst puts the wonder back in life and literature, and can make you believe in magic all over again.

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