Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Audio Book Review: The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) by Michael Scott

I would have enjoyed The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) much more had it been about half the length.

Twins Sophie and Josh come to the rescue as Nick Flemming, Josh's boss, is being attacked in his book store. Thus begins an adventure through the shadow realms, where they meet and are attacked by a variety of horrible and wonderful fantastical creatures.

It turns out the Nick is Nicholas Flamel. He's around 700 years old, and has stayed young because he possesses the Codex, a magical book that contains many secrets. When the book shop was attacked, a bad guy, Dr. John Dee, was able to steal the book -- all except the last couple pages that Josh managed to grab as Dee was stealing the book.

Now, Josh and Sophie must help Nicholas and some others of the Elder race to save the world from takeover by the Dark Elders. They must get the book back, while John Dee and the Dark Elders are trying to find them to get the missing pages.

The Alchemyst is full of wonderful creatures with imaginative magical capabilities. Our heroes escape from several near-death experiences in very unique ways. Scott has created a complex and intricate world and manages to keep it all organized and making sense.

My problem with The Alchemyst is the length, the "telling," and the repetition.  The action in the book, along with interesting dialog and plotting, is regularly interrupted by giant asides -- describing the history and back story of the creatures and world. This really brought the story to a screeching halt several times. As the perspective changes during the story, we are brought inside each character's head and told their thoughts and feelings, often repeating the same thing every time we go back to them. I got really tired of being told how much Josh didn't trust Flamel. Likewise, every time were are returned to Perry (Nick's wife) we seem to be told the same thing over and over before any progress can be made. In general, there's much description of the characters' thoughts which is repetitive and unnecessary. Couldn't their actions describe their feelings? At least more than they did.

I would have enjoyed more dialog and movement (showing as opposed to telling) to keep my interest. At 400 pages, I thought The Alchemist would benefit from some editing.

The story itself is a good one. It's intriguing and I enjoyed the action. The audio narration was excellent. The various accents required were handled expertly by Denis O'Hare.

Die-hard fantasy fans who can handle the length will enjoy this as well as the other books in the series. The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel is appropriate for middle or high school students.

Published by Delacorte, 2007
Audiobook obtained from the library
400 pages

Rating: 3/5

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  1. Oh I hate when the plot is drawn out by descriptions and incessant details. I'm not often a fan of fantasy novels and this is one of the reasons so I doubt this would be for me. Great review, doll!

  2. The mythology is what kept me from an arm's length away from the story. I don't know much about Celtic mythology and the lack of explanation had me putting down the book in order to look people up. I guess I'm not smart enough to read it. I know many MG readers who just love this series.

    1. I can see why a mythology buff would want more -- but I'm not one of those so that didn't bother me too much. But there's already so much description, more mythology might have caused me to dump this. I know there are lots of fans in my middle school - so this is probably an "it's me, not you" thing....

  3. I had trouble putting my kindle down. It keeps you on the edge. I recommend it to anyone wanting light enjoyable reading.
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