11 of 52 in my 2011 book blogging challenge.
The Alchemyst is a book I neither love nor hate. That in itself is a disappointment. I thought I would love it, and I didn’t. To be fair, however, this is a book written for 12-year-olds that is actually age appropriate for 12-year-olds. My complaint about much of the YA literature I’ve read lately is that I wouldn’t give it to a younger teen. This one would be fine for them. That’s probably why it didn’t hold my interest as much. I’m not 12.
The Alchemyst in this story is Nicholas Flamel. Remember him from Harry Potter? That’s where I, along with millions of others, first heard of him and his philosopher’s stone. He was a real person who lived in France in the 1300s. He published works on alchemy, and as a result legends grew up around him claiming that he could turn lead into gold and make an elixir of life that could keep a person alive indefinitely as long as that elixir continued to be produced and consumed.
You can’t be the subject of a legend like that without being the subject of some fantasy fiction.
In Michael Scott’s rendition, Flamel is alive still and running a book shop in San Francisco where he is basically hiding out from his arch enemy and evil counterpart. Of course the evil counterpart find him and steals his magic book that includes in it, among other vital things, the formula for the elixir that keeps Flamel alive after all these centuries. And of course a couple of modern day American teenagers get caught in the battle between the two. And of course those teenagers just happen to be the very ones who’ve been prophesied to play a major role in the last battle to save life as we know it from dark magic.
All of that is fairly formulaic. Not that I have a problem with that. Formulaic when done well is still captivating. This book was simply less than captivating for me. I spent the first third thinking I probably wouldn’t bother to finish it. I spent the second third thinking I would finish it, but I wouldn’t read the next book in the series. Finally, near the end I decided I might read the next book, but I’m not in any particular hurry to get started.
I don’t hold that against the book, though. Like I said, it’s main offense is that it is actually written for the people it is marketed to — sixth graders.
If I were a sixth grader I would get quite a nice introduction to world mythologies from reading The Alchemyst. You don’t live for more than 600 years without making friends with a slew of magical beings, after all, and you don’t have an epic battle between good and evil without all of your magical friends stepping in to lend a hand. If I were a sixth grader, I might also identify a little more with the teenage characters.
All in all this is just a cute little adventure story of a mythological persuasion. If you’re an adult fan of YA fantasy looking for the next Harry Potter, don’t expect to be blown away. Still, this is not such a bad filler to pass the time as long as you are still waiting for another Harry Potter. I’m sorry, but that’s just the best recommendation I can give it.