Friday, January 3, 2014

Review: The Alchemyst

The Alchemyst (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, book one)
By Michael Scott, read by Denis O'Hare
Published 2007 by Listening Library

Sophie and Josh are twins, living a relatively calm and normal life, when they suddenly find themselves thrust into a world of legends. The biggest legend: Nicholas Flamel, the famed alchemist, said to have discovered the secret to eternal life. Sophie and Josh are about to find out the truth behind the legend.

I've been wanting to read this book for some time. I love fantasy novels and this one sounded like an interesting premise. A while back, I copied the audio version to my iPod, thinking it was something both my boyfriend and I would enjoy (we often listen to audiobooks together when traveling - we have taken some extreme road trips in our days!). And, in fact, we started listening to it quite some time ago. I think we listened to about half the book in our first go and then we didn't travel any distance for quite some time. Soon, we found ourselves making little excuses to drive so we could finish listening to the book.

So, what does that say about the book? Well, I think it's fair to say that we both enjoyed it well enough. It's fun, it's certainly action-packed, and it's got a really interesting mythology to it. I found the villain here particularly unsettling because he seems so relentlessly evil and dark.

However, the book is not without flaws. I found Sophie and Josh to be pretty poor protagonists; as in, I'm not sure how likely it is that I'd actually be rooting for them to succeed. They both seem rather self-absorbed and immature and a lot of their interactions are frustrating and silly. Additionally, I felt like Flamel should have been a bit more prominent. The series is named after him, after all, and he has the fascinating history. Perhaps he will feature more heavily in future volumes, but I would have liked to read more about him.

A lot of this book focuses on dumping information on the reader and it also feels very frustrating. It seemed like there were large sections of the book that involved Flamel and his cohorts overly explaining the centuries-old battle against the evil John Dee to the twins. It made me feel like Scott was talking down to his readers, which I do not approve of.

Overall, a very middle-of-the-road series-opener. Interesting premise, uneven execution. We did go ahead and download the second book on audio as well, but we don't seem to be in any rush to listen to it.

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