Study Guide

The Alchemyst The Supernatural

By Michael Scott

The Supernatural

He had just watched two men toss balls and spheres of something—of energy—at each other. He had witnessed the destruction those energies had caused.

Josh had just witnessed magic.

But of course, everyone knew that magic simply did not and could not exist. (2.22)

Here's the thing about magic: even when Josh sees it with his own two eyes (and there's no denying that balls of energy were literally just being thrown around the room), he can't quite bring himself to believe in it just yet. Everything Josh has seen and heard in his life has convinced him that it isn't real. But then, in an instant, he finds out that it does exist. We think that last sentence might be Josh trying to convince himself that what he saw was a lie. But Josh, buddy, the eyes don't lie.

"I thought there was no such thing as magic," Josh said sarcastically, and then immediately felt foolish, after what he'd just seen and experienced. (4.27)

Poor Josh. He's still trying to explain the unexplainable things that just happened to him and his sister, and frankly, we are, too. This book is full of surprises, and at every turn we're faced with a new kind of magic that we don't yet understand. Josh, here, is showing the kinds of feelings anyone would experience in a similar situation. He feels foolish, for not having a clue about what's going on, and frustrated that he has no way to explain it.

If he breathed deeply, he could still smell the peculiar odors of… magic. That was what he had been smelling—not mint and rotten eggs, but the scent of magic. (4.36)

There's a lot of pausing in this quote (we can tell by the dash and the ellipsis. What gives? It's possible that Josh is starting to put the pieces together slowly—and that the style of these sentences reflects his pauses as he realizes that he's involved in magic. You'd pause, too, if you were trying to figure out why magic smells like mint and eggs. Yuck.

There was no magic in the world. Magic was movie special effects. Magic was stage shows with rabbits and doves and sometimes tigers, and David Copperfield sawing people in half and levitating over the audience. There was no such thing as real magic. (5.15)

Okay Josh, we get it. There's no such thing as magic. At this point, we're getting a bit tired of his disbelief. But still, we can totally understand where he's coming from, can't we? It seems like Josh's broken record routine is just the poor kid's trying to convince himself that magic doesn't exist (despite what he has just seen), because if magic does exist, then the world as he knows it is gone forever.

Exactly. When Watson and Crick announced that they had discovered what they called 'the secret of life' in 1953, they were merely rediscovering something alchemysts have always known […] It's called magic. (9.39)

You know what? DNA is pretty magical when you think about it. Seriously, the recipe to create any living thing is contained in such a tiny little code. And maybe that's precisely Flamel's point: science and magic aren't too different. There are elements of magic in science (like the miracle of DNA), and there is totally science in magic, too. After all, Flamel was quite the experimenter.

But what science cannot understand, it dismisses. Not everything can be so easily brushed aside. Can you dismiss what you've seen and experienced today as some sort of misinterpretation of the facts? (10.45)

If science can't explain something, that something doesn't exist. Wait, that doesn't sound quite right… at least not to Flamel. And it's definitely not right in the world of the novel. After all, how do you scientifically explain that Sophie's aura smells like vanilla ice cream? Frankly, you don't. But that doesn't mean it isn't true.

The Alchemyst knew that everyone has the possibility for magic within them. Once it had been sparked into life, it tended to become increasingly powerful of its own accord. (17.15)

So anyone has the possibility to become a magician, even us Shmoopers? Awesome.

Every magician has his or her own distinctive odor; rather like a magical footprint. (17.32)

There are a lot of smells in this novel, and it seems as though good characters have nice scents or "magical footprints," while bad characters stink (literally). Check out "Symbolic Scents" under "Symbols" for more.

But magic is really only the utilization of the entire spectrum of the senses. The humani have cut themselves off from the senses. Now they see only in a tiny portion of the visible spectrum, hear only the loudest of sounds, their sense of smell is shockingly poor, and they can only distinguish the sweetest and sourest of tastes. (24.54)

Well no wonder all humans have magical potential inside them—all humans have five senses, right? But Hekate is making another, even more interesting point here, too: lots of other creatures can hear more or see more than we can, like dogs that can hear high whistles, and bats that can "see" in the dark. If humans could tap into these abilities would we call it magic? It's also worth noting that Hekate is basically saying we humans are a bunch of unsubtle dunces. Gee, thanks.

And before you say this is all far-fetched, just think how far the human race has come in the past ten years. If someone had told your parents, for example, that they would be able to carry their entire music library in their pocket, would they have believed it? […] Today we are able to do what your parents would have dismissed as impossible and your grandparents as nothing short of magical. (30.24)

He may not be perfect, but Flamel's got a point. Advanced technology, like advanced science, can be seen as magical because it accomplishes great things in fascinating, often inscrutable (at least to the average Joe) ways. At the end of the day The Alchemyst asks us to consider the possibility that science and magic may not be as different as we assume.