The Alchemyst

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I’ll admit the main reason why I read The Alchemyst was because I was looking for a new series to some how tear Girl Lacer away from Harry Potter, so although I normally love reading kids’ books, I preface this review with what I normally write when I’m about to give a kids’ book a not particularly complimentary review, I am possibly too old to ‘get’ this book.

As well as trying to find new reading material for Girl Lacer, I was attracted to The Alchemyst as it had John Dee and Nicholas Flamel in it, two real life historical characters who’ve I’ve encountered in other books I’ve read over the last few years which I’ve really enjoyed. I did not particularly enjoy their appearance in The Alchemyst, I thought John Dee, the villain of the piece, was pretty two dimensional.

So what’s The Alchemyst about? The Alchemyst opens in a fight scene in a book shop in San Francisco, between the book shop owner and John Dee. Josh is working there over the summer and gets drawn into the fight. Over the road in a coffee shop is Josh’s twin sister Sophie and the book shop owner’s wife Perenelle, who rush over to the book shop when they realise something is happening. An important book gets stolen during the fight, well most of the book gets stolen and when Dee realises he doesn’t have all of the book, the bookshop owner and the children have to flee. Cue warrior maidens, sinister crows and rats, ancient goddess’ and Shadowrealms. There are a few good absorbing scenes in the book, particularly towards the end and I liked how it was set up for the rest of the series but most of the time something about the book made me almost painfully conscious about the writing and you know what they say, if you’re aware of the author’s writing, they’re not doing a great job. I think also because not only do I like stories with Dee and Flamel in but I also like stories where, as in The Alychemyst, myths and legends turn out to be true, I had a lot of my favourite stories to compare this to and it didn’t hold up well. But I think my reading background (as well as my age) is possibly making me a harsh critic, my opinion of the book is certainly not going to stop me recommending it to Girl Lacer, she may very well like it (although then again me recommending a book to Girl Lacer is normally the kiss of death).

** (out of 5)

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2 thoughts on “The Alchemyst

  1. Have you tried the Mysterious Benedict Society?
    Also Tamora Pierce has been writing female centric (main character is a girl) fantasy for a while.She worked in a group home for a while, so has a handle on the teenage girl thinking process, but her books are set in a fantasy world. She tends to write in in a series of four books, and then later series are set in the same world, and have the previous characters there, but as side characters. -My sachool librarian recomended her first book Alanna to my class in grade four (USA), and I loved it, but I do note that while the first two were considered children’s books, the next two were in YA. Her Wild Magic series may be a better place to start

    Also, really really hoping that you have read some Diana Wynne Jones, or considered it. Robin McKinley’s books were also something I loved in my pre and early teens- The Blue Sword, or Outlaws of Sherwood.
    Diane Duane’s Young Wizard series is also quite good- I am at the point now where I feel a bit old for it (nlike the others which i do re-read).

    1. Thank you for your great suggestions, I will definitely check them out, particularly Diana Wynne Jones, I can’t believe I forgot her!

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