Study Guide

The Alchemyst Symbolic Scents

By Michael Scott

Symbolic Scents

Did you notice yourself getting hungry when you read The Alchemyst? This novel smells as delicious as spiced oranges and vanilla ice cream, and tastes as clean and crisp as peppermint, or as warm as cardamom and rose water, tarragon and dry lime. Yum.

But then there are all these disgusting smells like sulfur and rotten eggs. Sometimes the stench is so strong that characters like Josh, Sophie and even the all-powerful Dr. John Dee feel ready to blow chunks.

So what's the deal here? Is Michael Scott just really keen on sensory detail, or is there something else afoot? If you look closer, you might notice that different characters are linked to different scents.

For example, Nicholas Flamel's magic smells like peppermint, Sophie's smells like vanilla ice cream, and Josh smells like oranges. Dee's, however, smells like rotten eggs, which means his magic is as foul smelling is his character. Now we're on to something: good characters have good scents, and bad characters have bad ones. Or, as Nicholas Flamel tells us, "every magician has his or her own distinctive odor; rather like a magical footprint. You must learn to heed your senses" (17.32).

We're not one hundred percent sure yet how each person gets their particular scent, but we're definitely curious. Josh wonders near the end of the book why his sister's aura smells like vanilla ice cream, when he is the one who loves it (37.15), but some characters seem to fit their scent particularly well. The clean, scientific smell of peppermint, for example, fits the scientific precision and goodness of the Alchemyst.