Sophie and Josh Newman are twins spending the summer in San Francisco with their aunt while their parents are doing research in Utah. The fifteen-year-olds find the perfect jobs, Josh at a bookshop and Sophie at a tea shop. They're working right across the street from each other so they can commute together.
It's turning out to be a great vacation, and the teens are well on their way to saving enough money to buy a car as soon as they get their licenses. Everything changes the day a very important book is stolen from the bookstore and they get caught up in trying thwart the thieves. That's the day they discover Josh is working for none other than Nicholas Famel, one of the most famous alchemists to have ever lived. The only problem is, Famel was born in 1330 and it's now the twenty-first century.
In The Alchemyst, Michael Scott mixes fact with fiction, mythology, and legend to create a fast-moving, mind-blowing tale of good versus evil and gods versus humans. All the action in this first of six planned books takes place in just a couple of days, and in those hours, Sophie and Josh see a glimpse of the world as it exists for the Elders (a.k.a. gods). As you can imagine, the twins' lives are changed forever, and they're caught up in an ancient battle without being sure which side should win.
Although Sophie and Josh are fifteen, The Alchemyst is geared more to middle-school readers than to high-schoolers and is a book that both boys and girls will like. It's obvious that Scott is writing to a young audience, but that's not to say that adults won't be caught up in the adventure. Readers of all ages will a kick out of how the ancient gods and creatures of legend deal with the modern world and the inventions of humans. It's also fun to hear Famel's take on the truth behind historical events, such as the Great Fire of London in 1666. I enjoyed the premise and action enough to want to continue the series.
I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Listening Library; 10 hr, 5 min) read by Denis O'Hare. O'Hare's expressive reading and clear and appropriate characterizations kept my attention. The Alchemyst is a good audio for family listening.
Michael Scott's website contains information about the historical basis of the series, including a time line, FAQ, and video interviews. You can also follow him on Twitter. This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.
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