Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on 28 September 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 and Nicholas Flamel lives. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects - 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. And 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 legends are true. And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.
There is a reason that I am wary of books that are proclaimed as 'The New Harry Potter'. It is because Harry Potter was so unique in its characters, mythology and world-building that nothing will ever match it for me. So I was already a bit wary of this one and I ended up pretty disappointed overall.
Firstly the characters. Flamel is the adult book hero with his magic and experience but he just lacked the warmth and charisma of a Dumbledore type figure. He was ok but at times he was a bit dull. I wanted to hear more about his adventures in his long life as those small bits were really enjoyable. For the most part though, it was him telling the kids what to do but not always explaining everything that an adult in this situation would do. His wife Perenelle was a much better character. She was feisty, funny and charming but spends the whole book being held hostage by the bad guys so we don't see as much of her as I'd like. Sophie and Josh were not great lead characters. Josh is a highly immature, obnoxious, rude little git with no appreciation for the people who are keeping them safe and I just didn't like him at all. Sophie was a nicer character but she just didn't have any real depth to her and she was also very immature in her actions.
It was a decent plot which is why I so much wanted to like the book more than I did. The first 100 pages were not really grabbing me. The magical fight in the bookshop was a bit lame and boring. I wanted MORE action, bangs, flames, whooshing magic...not a couple of bits of light and rotten smells. The story lacked that build up of tension just before a fight or an escape which I love in a good book. In this one however, they just move from one situation to another without that drama and fear. After page 100 it did improve and there were a couple of good action sequences but then it all slowed down again to let Josh be a baby for a while AGAIN.
The author's writing style gave me a few issues. I felt it didn't quite flow as much as I'd have liked. I HATED the fact that every time the author mentioned the bad guy, he called him Dr John Dee. The chapter would start with Dr John Dee sitting in his chair then Dr John Dee would talk to someone then Dr John Dee would walk around then Dr John Dee would sit down again. GRRR! OK we get his name! He was introduced right at the start as our bad guy so you don't need his full name every single time we see him! That really got on my nerves! Just refer to him as John or Dee for goodness sake. I felt as if I was reading one of those learn to read books where Kathy and Mark go to the shops and Kathy and Mark say hello to the dog. Very annoying.
I felt as if I was ploughing through this book more than reading it so it obviously was not going to grab me and pull me in. I took ages to finish it, with a sense of relief, and decided not to read the rest of the series.