Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on 28 September 1330. Nearly seven hundred years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life. The records show that he died in 1418. But his tomb is empty and Nicholas Flamel lives. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects – the Book of Abraham the Mage. It’s the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. And that’s exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it. Sometimes legends are true. And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time. — from Goodreads because I can’t summarise this for the life of me.
I read this book for the Pick-For-Me challenge between Ren and myself. I don’t even know where to start. There may be minor spoilers, I’m really sorry about that.
Frankly, I very nearly DNFed the book. It was a close call. I probably should have, but I always feel bad about DNFing – what if it gets better? In the end I really did want to know how the plot goes on, but if I’m honest with myself, I wasted days on a book I didn’t enjoy. The plot was alright, I suppose. I wouldn’t have put the book on my TBR if I hadn’t been interested, after all. After all it is called The Alchemyst, so you bet I’m interested. Alchemy? Hell yeah. It didn’t quite turn out that way. It just wasn’t what I thought it would be. For one thing I thought it would be set at some point in the past. I don’t know why, but it was ages ago when I put it on my TBR, so heaven knows what I had been thinking. Turns out that the book is not set in ye olde times, but that was fine. I was cool with that. And it started out fine too.
There’s Sophie, who works in a coffee shop, and Josh, who works in the bookshop across the street. Sophie observes something shady going on while talking to her friend. It started out great! – But it didn’t continue that way. If the author wouldn’t have specifically said that they were 15-year-old twins at one point, I would’ve pegged Sophie for early twenties, and Josh for about six years old considering his behaviour. There’s Nick Fleming – Nicholas Flamel – who owns the bookshop Josh works in over the summer.
And then there is a whole lot of mess. The story was alright-ish, but it felt very choppy and just randomly put together. There was a golden thread but it might have just been coincidence that it worked.
In general I enjoyed the idea of this book, but reading it was very very exhausting. It took forever for me to get through certain parts because I just didn’t care and everything was just so boring and unnecessary. After the halfway point I just gave up and skimmed the rest until I was done because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t want to trash this book, but there were so many things that bugged me. For example, the author kept calling characters by their full name. Now, that’s okay if you have 47 different Joshes and Sophies milling about, but that was not the case. It wasn’t necessary to literally keep calling them “Josh Newman” and “Sophie Newman” – at all. I kind of couldn’t ever forget their names after the first five times, thank you very much.
“That is just vile.” Josh Newman stood in the center of the bookstore’s cellar and breathed deeply.
And in that instant, Josh Newman realized that the world would never be the same again.
Fleming tossed another invisible ball into the corner of the room. Josh Newman followed the motion of his boss’s arm.
“I’ve been practicing, John,” Nick Fleming said, sliding toward the open cellar door, shoving Josh Newman farther down the stairs.
Josh Newman nodded; he knew the shop.
Josh Newman waited until Scathach had rounded the end of the corridor before turning to his sister.
Josh Newman jerked open the door of the black SUV and felt a wave of relief wash over him.
IS THERE ANY OTHER GUY NAMED JOSH IN THIS BOOK? IS THERE?! NO, THERE ISN’T.
Aside from that the characters were just very wishy-washy. I liked Scathach, she seemed to be the only sane person in a pile of people I couldn’t possibly make sense of. Flamel is a bit like a Dumbledore figure, except that he doesn’t look his age – but he isn’t likeable like good old Dumbles. I just found him very shady. Josh is an obnoxious teenager who thinks he’s the smartest but doesn’t know when to shut up. Of course he suffers from jealousy later on. Sophie is… around. That’s it. She’s a plot device. That’s all there is to her. Occasionally she shushes her brother, but in general both kids are mostly just plot devices. Unless there is something for them to be doing plot-wise, they’re just standing around. Sometimes literally.
The adaptation of myths in the book started out great until it was just as if the author had taken literally every mythological thing he had ever heard of and just stirred it all together. Arthurian legend. Norse myth. Egyptian myth. Irish myth. Flamel himself, of course. It’s all there. I don’t mind that it is, but there wasn’t much of a connection between them and I for one would’ve enjoyed actually reading a paragraph or two about why the heck two or three gods from different myths are apparently the same guy. Or something like that, I’m not sure I actually understood most of this book. It’s all tell and no show at all, I’m afraid. Then there’s the repetition of certain things. Yes, thank you, I got it the first time when it was said that the twins’ parents are archeologist. Again, thank you, I really did understand it the first time when it was mentioned that if you died in a video game you could just start over and real life was nothing like that. I got that.
Add to that the constant name dropping of certain brands and I was eerily reminded of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Sorry, but listing five different video games, a tv show and a film that your character likes doesn’t give him a personality. Nor do I really care whether or not the bad guy has the X-Files theme as his ringtone. Amazing, I know. What is also amazing is that this is set in 2007 where good old Sophie Newman uses a bluetooth headset to phone her friend, but her brother has to use Altavista to figure out the spelling of Scathach – and then once he knows that he moves on to Google so he can get to Wikipedia. Uhm. Right. I doubt somebody as versed in the ways of modern technology as Josh Newman would actually use Altavista, even if it is 2007. I mean, come ooooon. :( All the random name dropping and brand dropping just irked me a lot, because it wasn’t necessary at all. Nor were all the myths necessary. It just gave me a feel of a slightly altered Rule 34: If it exists, it will be in this book. Except for Harry Potter. Those books clearly do not exist in this universe (why? The Simpsons and The X-Files and Shrek and Myst and X-Men exist as franchises, but Harry Potter doesn’t?) because these kids have never heard of Nicholas Flamel before.
All in all it was a very disappointing read. It had so much potential – magic, alchemy, Nicholas Flamel, Elder Gods, Irish myth! But it just wasn’t polished enough. Even the ending was disappointing. I suppose it’s meant to be a cliffhanger, but it just felt like it randomly stopped. I know that as a reader I’m meant to be intrigued for the next book (there are five sequels, holy banana boat), but I’m not sold on it, unfortunately.
I wanted to like the book and I know lots of people do, but it was just not for me and I wouldn’t recommend it either. 1.5 teacups for potential and inital effort.
Normally I wouldn’t post gifs with reviews, but this sums it up perfectly: