In the opening novel of his six-part young-adult fantasy series, The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Michael Scott launches readers into a world that enriches the senses and expertly weaves history, myth and modern times into what I can only expect will be one of my favorite young-adult series. Since this is only the first book, I’ll only briefly talk about some of my reactions.
Action: Scott succeeds in launching the action of the story in the first few pages, setting events in motion that pull the reader through the 400 pages in a snap. Even when things seem calm – when characters sit down to an evening meal, for example – Scott allows tensions to build that frame events for much of the story.
Characters: As Scott explains in his Afterword, all of the characters – except the twins around whom the story revolves – are drawn straight out of history and legend. And indeed these characters are fully fleshed and even believable, despite the fact that some are only based in myth. But the book is not about these characters. The main purpose is to fill in back story and at times propel the story forward. What the series is actually about is how two teenagers face a unique and dangerous situation, a theme upon which most young adult series are based. What makes these teens different is that they are twins. But they aren’t just any twins. No, these twins might be the source of an ancient prophesy that spells salvation for the Earth – or doom, depending on how you read the words. It’s so difficult to pick up subtext in those arcane languages, isn’t it? The only downside to these characters is that they actually seem a little less believable than even the creatures that are obviously mythical. Perhaps as the story progresses, their characters will be given the chance to evolve and they will become a little more lively.
Resolution: Scott is thoughtful in the way he ends the first book. I personally hate cliffhangers, especially when one has to wait a few days for the next book to be available at the library. Ugh. But Scott resolves the immediate action, while setting up what the reader has to look forward to in the next five books. Unfortunately I have to wait until the next book is returned before I can move on.
Bottom Line: I don’t know if I’m just on a young adult fantasy kick right now or what, but I really enjoyed this book. It’s not super-heavy reading, but Scott presents everything that makes for a good story: Magic, history, myth, alternate dimensions, portals, emotional turmoil and characters that exist in a morally gray area, leaving the reader to puzzle out who to trust and where the story may go from here. And unlike many young adult books, so far there is no hormone-laced drama to muck up the story – a factor that to me made some of the Harry Potter books really drag.
Up Next: As I mentioned earlier, I am actually getting these books from the library. But I’m actually using OverDrive, a site that offers Digital Rights Management services to libraries. Newport News Public Library (and many others) uses it for their ebook collection and it is actually pretty easy to use. Unfortunately, The Magician, the next book in the series, is out right now. On the plus side, I was able to grab a copy of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a book that’s been on my to-read list since it was published. Hopefully by the time I get through it, The Magician will be available and I can continue my journey with Nicholas Flamel.