19 September 2011

Review: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

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.

The Alchemyst at Powell's
The Alchemyst at Book Depository
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Published by Random House / Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2007
ISBN-13: 9780385733571
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B-
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Beth Hoffman 9/19/11, 8:20 AM  

The boy down the street (age 12) is hooked on good vs evil stories, I'll recommend this to him. Terrific review, Candace.

Serena 9/19/11, 8:57 AM  

Wow, six planned books. Sounds like a good series for kids

Darlene 9/19/11, 1:14 PM  

I picked up the first three books when they were on sale. I love books like this once in a while. I should really make some time for this one.

Belle Wong 9/19/11, 4:48 PM  

I have the second book in this series waiting in my TBR - your review reminded me how enjoyable reading the first one was. I'll definitely have to see if I can dig it out before we move!

Mystica 9/20/11, 3:59 AM  

Sounds like a good story for youngsters.

Unknown 9/20/11, 11:07 AM  

I agree with you on what's to like about The Alchemyst. I'm reading this now and will be finishing soon ... what I really enjoy is the world building and the way Michael Scott has woven so many different mythologies together.

joanna 9/21/11, 4:07 AM  

Sounds like one I'll like and one to keep for my son for when he's old enough to appreciate it!

Jenners 9/21/11, 8:59 PM  

Is it wrong that I can't stop picturing Michael Scott from the TV show THE OFFICE when I saw the author's name?

Kailana 9/23/11, 11:17 AM  

I have been curious about this book for a while, but I just haven't got around to it yet. Thanks for reminding me about it!

Louise 9/23/11, 6:19 PM  

I'm reading this out loud for bedtime reading to my 10 year old son. We're about half way through at the moment. He LOVES it. Jumps up and down with excitement, wants to read an extra chapter every night. I'm really enjoying it too. It's very clever, and well done. He wanted it based on the cover, I'm glad it's so good. It would make a great movie I think.

Michelle 9/24/11, 8:41 AM  

I have no doubt kids will love this book, I think it may be a bit off of where my interest lie though.

Julie P. 9/26/11, 8:42 AM  

Sounds fun! My friend and her daughter love this series.

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