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The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel    by Michael Scott order for
by Michael Scott
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Alchemyst stars Sophie and Josh Newman, twins whose absentee archeologist parents are on a dig in Utah. The siblings are staying with their Aunt Agnes in San Franciso, Sophie working in The Coffee Shop and Josh for Nick Fleming in The Small Book Shop across the street. As the story opens, Sophie spots gray-skinned men in heavy black overcoats, gloves and hats (in summer, no less) entering the bookstore. What's up? In the bookstore's cellar, her brother Josh smells peppermint and rotten eggs. When he pops his head out of the cellar door, he 'realized that the world would never be the same again.'

Josh's ordinary looking boss and a small, dapper, gray man in a dark suit are flinging magical attacks at each other. Nick tells him that the stone-eyed, gray-skinned men accompanying his opponent, Dr. John Dee, are Golems. Dee seeks the Book of Abraham the Mage, that Nicholas Flamel, the greatest Alchemyst of his day, has been guarding since the 1300s and which prolongs his and his sorceress wife Perenelle's lives, while in their possession. Dee kidnaps Perry and manages to nab the book but, in a tussle over it, Josh hangs on to several key pages, containing the Final Summoning. Without the book, Nick and Perry have at most a month to live and 'the Elder Race will claim this earth again.'

Nick makes clear to the overwhelmed twins that the 'safe and mundane world' they knew is a thing of the past, and that they must flee with him. They tell their parents and aunt that they're accompanying the Flemings on a trip to the desert. What follows is a magical rollercoaster ride of flight and pursuit - by the villains, aided by magically empowered creatures. Both sides have allies, and even as a captive, Perenelle manages key interventions that help the good guys survive. Flamel enlists red-haired, green-eyed Scathach who 'has trained every warrior and hero of legend for the past two thousand years'. While they're under attack, Sophie's magic is awakened but there's no time to do the same for a resentful Josh. Dee plans to turn Josh to his side, and feeds him lies - will he succeed?

So ends Book One, in which Michael Scott interweaves fast-paced action, magical battles, and his vivid imagination, building on a rich mythological base. Twins are prophesied 'to save or to destroy the world' - we'll have to wait to find out which. There's a preview of Book Two, The Magician, at the back of this volume as well as an Author's Note on the real historical Flamels and John Dee. Don't miss this remarkable new series!

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