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The Alchemyst: 11/03/12

cover art

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott has the usual mixture of contemporary tween and YA fantasy: a pair of siblings, historical figures, mythology, monsters and magic. Unfortunately this recipe fell flat for me.

The book opens with Josh and Sophie on summer vacation at work in cool jobs in San Francisco. Josh works at a book store and Sophie works at an exotic tea shop. All that comes crashing down with a golem attacks the book store! Soon Josh learns that his kindly bosh is actually the immortal alchemist Nicholas Flamel. Knowing this has put the teens in danger, and they are now being sought out by the EVIL Dr. John Dee.

Their adventures take them to Mt. Tamalpais, where I kept hoping they'd run into some characters from Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series because they would have livened things up.

Nick is dishwater dull for a magical figure from history — so dull in fact that I started to call him Nick Flannel and imagining a Dudley Doright voice for him.

Dr. John Dee is no better. Every time he's introduced we are reminded that he is DOCTOR JOHN DEE. Lest we forget between page turns. He, the Snidely Wiplash baddie of the book, gets lots of mustache twirling evilness. He is as evil as Nick is good. Yawn.

Boy, girl, sibling duos are all the rage right now. I suppose it's a way to get boys and girls to read the same book (because heaven forbid that a girl read a book with a boy protagonist or vice versa). Josh and Sophie though bicker more than the usual pairs and by chapter two were already on my nerves.

The setting had me hopeful at first: San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area. Alchemy afoot in the City? Cool! Except not. It didn't feel like San Francisco. Nor did Mt. Tam or any of the places in between.

But the final blow for me was the vampires and werewolves. By then there was just too much going on and none of it was gelling well. Had the book stuck with just alchemy and maybe some related magic or the myths it would have been a tolerable book.

One star.

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Monday, November 05, 2012 at 08:10:14

Burgandy Ice

Ha! What an interesting review! I love your comment: "Boy, girl, sibling duos are all the rage right now. I suppose it's a way to get boys and girls to read the same book (because heaven forbid that a girl read a book with a boy protagonist or vice versa)."

I agree. I'm glad I've avoided this book 'til now, and I won't be picking it up. Thank you!!

Comment #2: Tuesday, November 10, 2012 at 14:09:18


There are certainly children who won't read books with protagonists that aren't their gender — although it seems to often be the parents forcing the rule on the child, than the something the child is doing him- or herself. But it seems like this boy/girl double protagonist work around is forced onto a lot of stories where it otherwise just doesn't fit.

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