Study Guide

The Alchemyst Awe and Amazement

By Michael Scott

Awe and Amazement

Nick Fleming tumbled to the floor, close to the opening to the cellar, almost landing on top of Josh, who was standing frozen on the steps, wide-eyed with shock and horror. (2.7)

Bulging eyes? Check. So stunned he can't move? Check. Sounds to us like Josh's reaction to seeing magic for the first time is the very definition of awe and amazement.

The name meant nothing to Sophie, but she watched with a mixture of horror and confusion as the creature—the golem—on the street crawled out of the sun and under the cover of the awning. (3.22)

Sophie knows first hand that you don't just feel awe toward awesome things. Sometimes, horrible stuff, like the disintegration of the golems in sunlight, can leave you just as awestruck.

[Nick Fleming's] long-fingered hands were trembling slightly as he smoothed the pages flat. The twins knelt on the floor on either side of him, staring intently at the pages […] trying to make sense of what they were seeing. "And we're certainly not imagining that," Sophie whispered, tapping the page with her index finger. (4.16)

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: the Book of Abraham the Mage is a Very Important Book (a VIB). Every character who comes into contact with it cannot help but be awed. But of course Sophie is making another interesting point here, too. Sure, awesome stuff happens in our imaginations. But what makes something truly awesome—as in, producing awe—is when it leaps out of our imaginations and into reality.

Everything you have been taught, all the myths and legends of your world, have a kernel of truth in them. You've seen wonders today. You will see more in the days to come. (15.58)

You mean all the boring mythology we learned in class is actually real? In that case, we totally want to meet Athena, and maybe have a chat with Thor, too. We'll just have to keep reading the rest of this series to see if we'll get a chance to meet our favorite mythological figures.

Sophie realized that she was staring, and deliberately turned away. The men looked like some breed of primitive hominid, but she knew the differences between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon, and her father had plaster skulls of Australopithecus, Peking man and the great apes in his study. These men were none of those. (17.42)

Our first instinct when we see something totally strange is to, of course, stare. But then, once we're done being totally rude, we try our hardest to fit the strange sight into our limited experience. That's just what Sophie does here. Lacking any better ideas, she runs through the list of similar things she knows—apes, Neanderthals, Cro-Magnons. But then she has to face the shocking truth: this is no hominid. This is a golem.

"So this is the night sky and the moon as they were thousands of years ago," Sophie said in awe. She wished she had her digital camera with her, just to capture the extraordinary image of the smooth-faced moon. (19.43)

Once she gets over the initial shock, what's Sophie's second instinct? To take a picture of course. And that makes sense; when you see something awesome, you just can't wait to share it with someone, to prove that it really did happen. Otherwise, couldn't it all just be a dream?

The scholar in [Dee] enjoyed the experience of standing on the roof of the tallest building in Paris, and he wished he'd brought his sketchpad with him […] he wanted nothing more in the world than to fly. Looking out over Paris now, he began to imagine what it would be like to strap da Vinci's wings to his arms and sail out over the roofs (20.15).

We love seeing Dr. John Dee, powerful magician and human-hater extraordinaire, in awe of something totally man-made—the city of Paris. This quote kind of reminds us of Sophie's reaction to the ancient night sky, as both Dr. John Dee and Sophie wish they had a camera or a sketchpad to capture the amazing sight they have witnessed.

"The house is alive," Sophie said in wonder as they turned into another twisting, spiraling corridor that was completely composed of the gnarled and bulbous roots of the great tree that rose above them. "Even with us moving around inside, with the rooms and the windows and the pools—it's still a living tree!" She found the idea both astonishing and frightening at the same time. (24.36)

We often think of awe as totally good, right? After all, calling something awesome is high praise. But here Sophie's remark reminds us that awesome things can be, well, scary, too. In this case, Hekate's totally awesome tree house is also totally terrifying. When a house is alive, there's no telling what it will do.

Bastet slowly stepped away from Flamel and raised herself to her full towering height. Her slit-pupiled eyes were wide, her mouth tightly closed. "It has been a long time since anyone has called me by those names. Who are you—certainly no modern humani girl?" (28.28)

Now here's a switcheroo. Instead of the human character being in awe of the magical creature, we have the supernatural being, Bastet, in awe of the human, Sophie. Bastet can't believe that Sophie's powers belong to a human girl. But now that we know Sophie's potential, we feel like telling Bastet she had better start believing. In any case, she'll figure it out soon enough.

"It's time to die, Nicholas Flamel," Dee called out of the gloom […] A rustle ran through the mass of skeletal human and animal bodies, and then, as one, they surged forward.

And a monster came out of the fog.

Huge and black, howling savagely, with two huge yellow white eyes and dozens of smaller eyes blazing, it drove straight through the Libbey Park fountain, crushing it to powder, shattering the ornamental vases, and bore down on Dr. John Dee. (39.21-22)

We love that this quote trades the awe usually associated with magic for awe toward a totally ordinary object—the Hummer that Josh drives into Dr. John Dee. By calling the car "a monster" and personifying it ("howling savagely, with two huge yellow eyes"), we feel the wonder of watching a monster destroy a powerful villain. And then we remember: it's just a car.