09 October, 2011

Book Review: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel: The Alchemyst

Title: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel: The Alchemyst
Author: Michael Scott
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 369
Rating: 2.9 out of 5
Cover Rating: 4.5 out of 5. I love the font and all the symbols, since it gives it an aura of magic and mystery.

Inside flap:
He holds the secret that can end the world.
The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 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.
The legend: Nicholas Flamel lives. But only because he has been making the elixir of life for centuries. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protests--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.   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 the legends are true.
   And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.

My expectations: I wanted to love this book. The cover was great, I'd seen this series all over in libraries and bookstores, and it sounded like a really well-written MG/YA Fantasy.

Sadly, I cannot say I really enjoyed it.

About the book: The Alchemyst had a lot of things going for it--a good set of characters, it played on some interesting ideas, and was fairly original, but I found there were a lot of problems and things that bugged me. The writing style was one of them: there wasn't really anything I could pinpoint and say "Aha! There's your problem". It was more like the whole thing disagreed with me.

  • Plot:

It felt too discombobulated and muddled; it was either moving too fast or too slow or things were all too confusing. Even the beginning had me skeptical, since at that point a.) I was not invested in the characters b.) It felt like I'd been dropped into the middle of a series, which was especially disappointing since this is the first book and c.) People weren't making sense decision-wise.

  • Characters:

I never got a sense of urgency from these characters. They ran for their lives, they went through a lot of action, but I never felt my heart speed up at their predicament. Mostly I just felt mild irritation that they were gallivanting off on some other scheme which didn't make sense to me. Furthermore, I couldn't get attached to the characters themselves--the brother in particular. I kept wanting to smack him. The antagonist also felt unrealistic.

  • Setting/Elements:

I would have liked more backstory. In some places there were infodumps meant to help give the characters information about what was happening, but many of them were infuriating because they sounded improbable, or because the main characters reacted to them strangely. I did like the world the story is set in, though; it had potential.

Other: I can't recall anything. There's a bit of violence here and there, but it's not gory or anything.

Do I recommend this book? Unfortunately, no. While the setting was interesting and the concept was unique, the execution was not as well done. I'd suggest trying another Fantasy series if you want a really good read.

-----The Golden Eagle


Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I've almost picked this book up a number of times because like you, I loved the cover. Glad I never purchased it.

Wendy aka Quillfeather said...

Still sounds interesting, yet I think I'll get it out from the library rather than purchasing it.

Old Kitty said...

There seems to be this trend to replace i with y hence, magyck, wytch etc! LOL!

Anyway - I love the book cover here! You see if I saw this in the shops, I'd immediately browse!

Thanks for the honest review though and yes, hope my library will have this! Take care

mshatch said...

Too bad it wasn't as good as the hype. I felt the same way about Inkheart. I wanted to like it.

Barbara Kloss said...

Bummer. This one was on my list :( I guess I'm stuck with admiring the cover.

KarenG said...

It sounds exactly like my response to Dan Brown's latest book. The one statement you made that would absolutely be a no for me was this "people weren't making sense decision-wise." This is so huge for me. Characters need to act in a way that strikes a chord of truth, even if we don't agree with their decisions, or we despise them, they need to be seen as how this person would react in this situation. Without that, a book comes across as false and I can't take that!

Excellent review! Like other commenters, I would have picked it up on cover alone. (Except it looks like a Dan Brown cover and I can't stand his books, so maybe I wouldn't have.)

Belle said...

Thanks for the review. Very interesting.

Sarah Pearson said...

If I bother at all, it'll be a library copy :-)

Paul Tobin said...

I agree with you, I downloaded the talking book about a year ago for my niece, like you I expected to enjoy the story-especially as The Guardian had made it the childrens book of the week some time before. Alas I thought it just did not work, I thought it dull, strangely enough my niece read the second book as well. Being as I was disappointed I bought her the Susan Cooper series, now collected in one volume as The Dark Is Rising. A great read, though I avoided the film.

Tara Tyler said...

thanks for that review. my son looks at the first page and can tell if he wants to read it or not. glad he was right about this one, cause i thought it would be good too!

BornStoryteller said...

Hi GE:
sounds like a dud.

Might I suggest a novella you MIGHT like: Paolo Bacigalupi's The Alchemist.

His "The Wind Up Girl" was one of the best books of last year, imo. I enjoyed this. It's a quick read and it did two things: made me sorry it was over and made me want another book of his NOW.

Deepali said...

I agree, the protagonists went off on some random side trips! :D This continues in the other books too...I still liked it enough to read the next couple, but it would never feature in a top-books list of mine :)

Jemi Fraser said...

I haven't read this one yet, but I totally agree with you on the cover! :)

Sarah McCabe said...

Man, that's too bad. There's nothing more disappointing than a story that has such huge potential where the author totally drops the ball.

Milo James Fowler said...

"Discombobulated" -- great word!

Sangu said...

Ah, that is a shame. It is an awesome cover, but it's always such a disappointment when you want to love a book and it lets you down, isn't it?

MG Higgins said...

Thank you for your honest review. I'd seen the cover and was also intrigued. I'll take a gander at it in the library.

N. R. Williams said...

You are probably aware that Nicolas Flamel is a character in the Harry Potter series. I wondered about the author immediately due to this fact. I know there are a lot of knock offs from HP and this sounds like it might be one of them.
N. R. Williams, Fantasy Author

The Golden Eagle said...

Susan: It was nice to see in my library stack, if nothing else. :P

Wendy: That's where I got my copy--which I'm glad of!

Old Kitty: I've noticed that, too. I think it's supposed to sound archaic or something. :P

You're welcome!

Mshatch: I really like Inkheart, though I wasn't as happy with the last book as I'd hoped.

Barbara: It was on mine, too, for a while. *sigh* I really did want to like it . . .

Karen: I don't like it, either--or in the instance where the characters have believable motives, but the plot just doesn't relate to the rest of the story right.

Thank you!

I'm not a huge fan of Dan Brown; though some parts of his books (I've only read two) are interesting.

Belle: You're welcome!

Sarah: Thank goodness for libraries. That's where I got the copy I read, too.

Paul: I love The Dark Is Rising!

I didn't know they made a movie of it, though. It's too bad the review are so negative--The Seeker is a great book.

Tara: You're welcome!

Maybe this is one of the "love it or hate it" books; it certainly seems to be a popular series!

Stuart: I love Paolo Bacigalupi! I read Ship Breaker by him--it's one of the better YA SF I've read.

Deepali: I don't think I'll try the next books in the series. I had looked for them at the library before, but they didn't have them . . . and I've sort of given up. :P

Jemi: I know! It's a great cover.

Sarah: Unfortunately not. But I've read a lot of other good books this year in the genre, anyway. :)

Milo: LOL. I like it, too.

Sangu: It is.

MG: You're welcome.

I hope you like it more than I did! I know a lot of people have enjoyed the book. :)

Nancy: Yup. I had wondered at that bit of it.

I don't really think of it as a HP knock-off; the story itself beyond the writing/plot is actually pretty unique.

Julie @ Knitting and Sundries said...

When I read this, I felt pretty much the same. It really didn't feel unique and interesting honestly. But, you're right, the cover DOES rock!

The Golden Eagle said...

Julie: Too bad the rest of it isn't as good, right? :P