Analysis: What's Up With the Epigraph?
Epigraphs are like little appetizers to the great main dish of a story. They illuminate important aspects of the story, and they get us headed in the right direction.
Death has no claim over me, illness cannot touch me. Look at me now and it would be hard to put an age upon me, and yet I was born in the Year of Our Lord 1330, more than six hundred and seventy years ago.
I have been many things in my time: a physician and a cook, a bookseller and a soldier, a teacher of languages and chemistry, both an officer of the law and a thief.
But before all these I was an alchemyst. I was the Alchemyst.
I was acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of all, sought after by kings and princes, by emperors and even the Pope himself. I could turn ordinary metal into gold, I could change common stones into precious jewels. More than this: I discovered the Secret of Life Eternal hidden deep in a book of ancient magic.
Now my wife, Perenelle, has been kidnapped and the book stolen.
Without the book, she and I will age. Within the full cycle of the moon, we will wither and die. And if we die, then the evil we have so long fought against will triumph. The Elder Race will reclaim this Earth again, and they will wipe humanity from the face of this planet.
But I will not go down without a fight.
For I am the immortal Nicholas Flamel.
From the Day Booke of Nicholas Flamel, Alchemyst
Writ this day, Thursday, 31st of May, in
San Francisco, my adopted city
What's Up With the Epigraph?
Well hello Nicholas Flamel. It's a pleasure to meet you.
That's really what The Alchemyst's epigraph is all about—introducing us to Nicholas Flamel and his current, rather alarming predicament. Do you remember those scrolling yellow words, at the beginning of Star Wars, that gave us the skinny on what's going down in the Galactic Empire, long long ago in a galaxy far far away?
Our epigraph is just like Star Wars's opening crawl. Everything happens so fast in the novel that it's nice to get the scoop up front. We get that scoop in the form of a diary entry (that's what "Day Booke" refers to). It does require a little suspension of disbelief on our parts though. Why would Flamel write such basic info about himself in his diary?
Still, if you're willing to suspend that disbelief for a moment, you'll find that the epigraph is chock full of handy information. Basically, we get everything we need to know to understand all the action that goes down. We meet Flamel, and then we learn the most important thing of all: someone has stolen the book that gave him—the alchemyst—the secret of immortality. Right off the bat, we know that Flamel is in a fight to save his life, and he's on a bit of a deadline. Is your pulse racing yet?