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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Read the first book in the New York Times bestselling The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, perfect for fans of The Maze Runner and Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

He holds the secret that can end the world.

The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 1330. Nearly 700 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 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. 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.


Praise for The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series:

The Alchemyst

[STAR] “[A] A riveting fantasy…While there is plenty here to send readers rushing to their encyclopedias…those who read the book at face value will simply be caught up in the enthralling story. A fabulous read.”—School Library Journal, Starred
 
The Magician

[STAR] “Readers will be swept up by a plot that moves smartly along, leaving a wide trailer of destruction and well-timed revelations.”—Kirkus Reveiws, Starred
 
The Sorceress

“Master yarnspinner that he is, Scott expertly cranks up the suspense while keeping his now-large cast in quick motion….This page –turner promises plenty of action to come.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
The Necromancer

“Unrelenting forward momentum….This book will thrill fans.”—School Library Journal




From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

“OK—answer me this: why would anyone want to wear an overcoat in San Francisco in the middle of summer?” Sophie Newman pressed her fingers against the Bluetooth earpiece as she spoke.

On the other side of the continent, her fashion-conscious friend Elle inquired matter-of-factly, “What sort of coat?”

Wiping her hands on the cloth tucked into her apron strings, Sophie moved out from behind the counter of the empty coffee shop and stepped up to the window, watching men emerge from the car across the street. “Heavy black wool overcoats. They’re even wearing black gloves and hats. And sunglasses.” She pressed her face against the glass. “Even for this city, that’s just a little too weird.”

“Maybe they’re undertakers?” Elle suggested, her voice popping and clicking on the cell phone. Sophie could hear something loud and dismal playing in the background— Lacrimosa maybe, or Amorphis. Elle had never quite got over her Goth phase.

“Maybe,” Sophie answered, sounding unconvinced. She’d been chatting on the phone with her friend when, a few moments earlier, she’d spotted the unusual-looking car. It was long and sleek and looked as if it belonged in an old black-and-white movie. As it drove past the window, sunlight reflected off the blacked-out windows, briefly illuminating the interior of the coffee shop in warm yellow-gold light, blinding Sophie. Blinking away the black spots dancing before her eyes, she watched as the car turned at the bottom of the hill and slowly returned. Without signaling, it pulled over directly in front of The Small Book Shop, right across the street.

“Maybe they’re Mafia,” Elle suggested dramatically. “My dad knows someone in the Mafia. But he drives a Prius,” she added.

“This is most definitely not a Prius,” Sophie said, looking again at the car and the two large men standing on the street bundled up in their heavy overcoats, gloves and hats, their eyes hidden behind overlarge sunglasses.

“Maybe they’re just cold,” Elle suggested. “Doesn’t it get cool in San Francisco?”

Sophie Newman glanced at the clock and thermometer on the wall over the counter behind her. “It’s two-fifteen here . . . and eighty-one degrees,” she said. “Trust me, they’re not cold. They must be dying. Wait,” she said, interrupting herself, “something’s happening.”

The rear door opened and another man, even larger than the first two, climbed stiffly out of the car. As he closed the door, sunlight briefly touched his face and Sophie caught a glimpse of pale, unhealthy-looking gray-white skin. She adjusted the volume on the earpiece. “OK. You should see what just climbed out of the car. A huge guy with gray skin. Gray. That might explain it; maybe they have some type of skin condition.”

“I saw a National Geographic documentary about people who can’t go out in the sun . . . ,” Elle began, but Sophie was no longer listening to her.

A fourth figure stepped out of the car.

He was a small, rather dapper-looking man, dressed in a neat charcoal-gray three-piece suit that looked vaguely old-fashioned but that she could tell had been tailor-made for him. His iron gray hair was pulled back from an angular face into a tight ponytail, while a neat triangular beard, mostly black but flecked with gray, concealed his mouth and chin. He moved away from the car and stepped under the striped awning that covered the trays of books outside the shop. When he picked up a brightly colored paperback and turned it over in his hands, Sophie noticed that he was wearing gray gloves. A pearl button at the wrist winked in the light.

“They’re going into the bookshop,” she said into her earpiece.

“Is Josh still working there?” Elle immediately asked.

Sophie ignored the sudden interest in her friend’s voice. The fact that her best friend liked her twin brother was just a little too weird. “Yeah. I’m going to call him to see what’s up. I’ll call you right back.” She hung up, pulled out the earpiece and absently rubbed her hot ear as she stared, fascinated, at the small man. There was something about him . . . something odd. Maybe he was a fashion designer, she thought, or a movie producer, or maybe he was an author—she’d noticed that some authors liked to dress up in peculiar outfits. She’d give him a few minutes to get into the shop, then she’d call her twin for a report.

Sophie was about to turn away when the gray man suddenly spun around and seemed to stare directly at her. As he stood under the awning, his face was in shadow, and yet for just the briefest instant, his eyes looked as if they were glowing.

Sophie knew—just knew—that there was no possible way for the small gray man to see her: she was standing on the opposite side of the street behind a pane of glass that was bright with reflected early-afternoon sunlight. She would be invisible in the gloom behind the glass.

And yet . . .

And yet in that single moment when their eyes met, Sophie felt the tiny hairs on the back of her hands and along her forearms tingle and felt a puff of cold air touch the back of her neck. She rolled her shoulders, turning her head slightly from side to side, strands of her long blond hair curling across her cheek. The contact lasted only a second before the small man looked away, but Sophie got the impression that he had looked directly at her.

In the instant before the gray man and his three overdressed companions disappeared into the bookshop, Sophie decided that she did not like him.

G G G

Peppermint.

And rotten eggs.

“That is just vile.” Josh Newman stood in the center of the bookstore’s cellar and breathed deeply. Where were those smells coming from? He looked around at the shelves stacked high with books and wondered if something had crawled in behind them and died. What else would account for such a foul stink? The tiny cramped cellar always smelled dry and musty, the air heavy with the odors of parched curling paper, mingled with the richer aroma of old leather bindings and dusty cobwebs. He loved the smell; he always thought it was warm and comforting, like the scents of cinnamon and spices that he associated with Christmas.

Peppermint.

Sharp and clean, the smell cut through the close cellar atmosphere. It was the odor of new toothpaste or those herbal teas his sister served in the coffee shop across the road. It sliced though the heavier smells of leather and paper, and was so strong that it made his sinuses tingle; he felt as if he was going to sneeze at any moment. He quickly pulled out his iPod earbuds. Sneezing with headphones on was not a good idea: made your ears pop.

Eggs.

Foul and stinking—he recognized the sulfurous odor of rotten eggs. It blanketed the clear odor of mint . . . and it was disgusting. He could feel the stench coating his tongue and lips, and his scalp began to itch as if something were crawling through it. Josh ran his fingers through his shaggy blond hair and shuddered. The drains must be backing up.

Leaving the earbuds dangling over his shoulders, he checked the book list in his hand, then looked at the shelves again: The Complete Works of Charles Dickens, twenty-seven volumes, red leather binding. Now where was he going to find that?

Josh had been working in the bookshop for nearly two months and still didn’t have the faintest idea where anything was. There was no filing system . . . or rather, there was a system, but it was known only to Nick and Perry Fleming, the owners of The Small Book Shop. Nick or his wife could put their hands on any book in either the shop upstairs or the cellar in a matter of minutes.

A wave of peppermint, immediately followed by rotten eggs, filled the air again; Josh coughed and felt his eyes water. This was impossible! Stuffing the book list into one pocket of his jeans and the headphones into the other, he maneuvered his way through the piled books and stacks of boxes, heading for the stairs. He couldn’t spend another minute down there with the smell. He rubbed the heels of his palms against his eyes, which were now stinging furiously. Grabbing the stair rail, he pulled himself up. He needed a breath of fresh air or he was going to throw up—but, strangely, the closer he came to the top of the stairs, the stronger the odors became.

He popped his head out of the cellar door and looked around.

And in that instant, Josh Newman realized that the world would never be the same again.


From the Hardcover edition.
Michael Scott

About Michael Scott

Michael Scott - The Alchemyst

Photo © Perry Hagopian

“Some stories wait their turn to be told, others just tap you on the shoulder and insist you tell them.”

By one of those wonderful coincidences with which life is filled, I find that the first time the word alchemyst–with a Y–appears in my notes is in May 1997. Ten years later, almost to the day, The Alchemyst, the first book in the Nicholas Flamel series, will be published in May.

Every writer I know keeps a notebook full of those ideas, which might, one day, turn into a story. Most writers know they will probably never write the vast majority of those ideas. Most stories wait their turn to be told, but there are a few which tap you on the shoulder and insist on being told. These are the stories which simply will not go away until you get them down on paper, where you find yourself coming across precisely the research you need, or discovering the perfect character or, in my case, actually stumbling across Nicholas Flamel’s house in Paris.

Discovering Flamel’s house was the final piece I needed to put the book together. It also gave me the character of Nicholas Flamel because, up to that point, the book was without a hero.

And Nicholas Flamel brought so much to the story.

Nicholas Flamel was one of the most famous alchemists of his day. He was born in 1330 and earned his living as a bookseller, which, by another of those wonderful coincidences, was the same job I had for many years.

One day he bought a book, the same book mentioned in The Alchemyst: the Book of Abraham. It, too, really existed and Nicholas Flamel left us with a very detailed description of the copper-bound book. Although the book itself is lost, the illustrations from the text still exist.

Accompanied by his wife Perenelle, Nicholas spent more than 20 years trying to translate book. He must have succeeded. He became extraordinarily wealthy and used some of his great wealth to found hospitals, churches, and orphanages. Perhaps he had discovered the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone: how to turn base metal into gold.

Of course the greatest mystery linked to Nicholas Flamel is the story of what happened after he died. When his tomb was opened by thieves looking for some of his great wealth, it was found to be empty. Had Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel been buried in secret graves, or had they never died in the first place? In the months and years to follow, sightings of the Flamels were reported all over Europe. Had Nicholas also discovered that other great mystery of alchemy: the secret of immortality?

What writer couldn’t resist a story that combined magical books, an immortal magician and grave robbing and, even more excitingly, that had a basis in fact? It begged the questions: if he was still alive today, where would he be and what would he be doing? Obvious really–he would be running a bookshop in San Francisco.

The Alchemyst was a tough book to write, probably the toughest of all the books I’ve done so far. It is the first in a series, and because the story told across all six books is so tightly integrated, keeping track of the characters and events means that I have to keep extensive and detailed notes. A minor change in book one could impact dramatically book three. There are tiny clues seeded into the first book that pay off in later books. The time frame for the entire series is very tight–The Alchemyst, for example, takes place over two days–so I to need to keep an hour-by-hour breakdown of events.

For people who like to know the practicalities, I write every day and sometimes all day and often long into the night. Nights really are the best time for writing. It’s that time the conscious side of the brain is starting to shut down and the unconscious takes over. The following day I’ll read what I’ve written the previous day, then edit and rewrite. I work on two computer screens; the story on one screen, notes and research on the second screen.

And now let me answer the question you are about to ask me because, sooner or later, everyone asks, “What is the secret of writing?”

A comfortable chair. A really comfortable chair–because if you’re a writer, you’re going to spend a lot of time sitting in it.
Praise | Awards

Praise

“[A] riveting fantasy. While there is plenty here to send readers rushing to their encyclopedias . . . those who read the book at face value will simply be caught up in the enthralling story. A fabulous read.”
—School Library Journal, Starred

“Scott offers a classic fantasy . . . that will put readers on the edge of their seats as they rush to the final page. . . . [An] exhilarating fantasy.”—Booklist

“The juxtaposition of our reality with magic and myth is riveting.”
—Kirkus Reviews

Awards

WINNER 2008 Texas Lone Star Reading List
WINNER 2007 Book Sense Children's Pick List
WINNER New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age
NOMINEE Kentucky Bluegrass Award
NOMINEE Nevada Young Readers Award
WINNER Rhode Island Teen Book Award
NOMINEE Illinois Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award
WINNER Texas Lone Star Reading List
NOMINEE Iowa Teen Book Award
WINNER IRA Young Adult Choices
NOMINEE Pacific Northwest Young Readers Choice Award
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide



ABOUT THIS BOOK

When Josh takes a job in a secondhand
bookstore in San Francisco, he has no
idea that Nick Fleming, the owner, is
actually Nicholas Flamel, a 14th-century
alchemist who discovered the secret to
immortality.
Flamel and his powerful wife,
Perenelle, are attacked by Dr. John
Dee, a magician and astrologer from
the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Dee
has been chasing Flamel and Perenelle
through the centuries and around the
globe to retrieve the Book of Abraham
the Mage, the codex that holds the
secrets of life and death.
Josh and his twin sister, Sophie, find
themselves caught in the center of
the battle. Could it be that these twins
actually possess the powers that can
save the world?

ABOUT THIS AUTHOR

Michael Scott is one of Ireland’s most successful authors.
He writes for both adults and young adults. A master
of fantasy, science fiction, horror, mythology, and folklore, he
was hailed by the Irish Times as “the King of Fantasy in these
isles.” He lives and writes in Dublin, Ireland. Learn more about
Michael Scott at www.dillonscott.com

TEACHING IDEAS

Familiar to many from the Harry Potter novels, Nicholas Flamel was a real historical
figure. Have students search online and in encyclopedias for information about
Nicholas Flamel, Perenelle Flamel, and Dr. John Dee. Have them make a chart of
facts they find out about these individuals as well as the legends that have evolved
around their names.
Ask students to research the term Elder Race. What does this term mean? Have
them write a paragraph exploring some of the concepts and conjectures about
an Elder Race. Organize a debate between groups of students about whether such
a race could exist today.

DISCUSSION AND WRITING

How do Josh and Sophie know they can trust Flamel? How do they know that Dee’s
motives are evil ones? Do their feelings toward these two characters change through
the course of the story?

Discuss the power of the codex, the Book of Abraham the Mage. Do you think that
one book could contain the secrets to immortal life?

Compare the personalities of Josh and Sophie, and Flamel and Dee. In what ways are
the pairs alike and different? How does Perenelle compare to them?

Flamel and Dee both call on beings of the Elder Race. Discuss the idea that entities
from many different mythologies could still exist in our world, and that they could
interact with one another and with humans.

Why does Perenelle use a ghost to help her communicate with Flamel? Why can’t
she call on beings of the Elder Race?

Discuss the character of Scathach. What part does she play in the story? What is her
relationship to Flamel? To the twins? To Hekate and the Witch of Endor?

Flamel says, “We are all prisoners of a sort here—prisoners of circumstance and
events.” (p. 197) What does he mean? Are Josh and Sophie involved in the battle
between Flamel and Dee because of their destiny, or because they choose to become
involved? What does the codex mean when it says, “The two that are one will come
either to save or to destroy the world”? (p. 199)

Why do Josh and Sophie agree to go through the Awakening? Why does Hekate only
“awaken” Sophie’s powers? How does this affect the twins’ connection to each other?

What does Hekate mean when she says, “Great change always comes down to the
actions of a single person”? (p. 210) Can you identify times in the history of the world
when great change happened because of the actions of a single person?

Why does Josh believe what Dee is telling him at the fountain in Ojai? What does
Dee mean when he says, “It seems we are all victims of Nicholas Flamel”? (p. 338)
Who do you believe is telling the truth?

The ending of the book seems to lead to another beginning, at the other side of
the leygate. What do you think will happen to the twins in a future story? Is Dee
destroyed, or will he return? The first chapter of Book 2 is printed in the back of
The Alchemyst. Challenge students to write an additional chapter of this story as
they would like to see it unfold.

VOCABULARY

Have students work in groups to research the use of language in The Alchemyst from the
list of activities below.

Look up the word codex as it applies to the history of printing. How is a codex different from a modern book?

Look up these words and determine the specific differences between them: magic, alchemy, necromancy, scrying, astrology, divination, sorcery, and aura.

Look up these words and define the unique characteristics of each of these creatures: golem, simulacra, homunculus, and pterosaur.

There are many ancient and legendary beings mentioned in this book. Find out
the origin of beliefs for each of these and what cultures they represent: Scathach,
the Morrigan, Bastet, Hekate, and Witch of Endor.

Place names are important in this story—both real places and those from mythical
legends. See what you can learn about each of these places: Yggdrasill, San Francisco,
Atlantis, and Ojai.

ABOUT THIS GUIDE

Prepared by Connie Rockman, children’s literature consultant, adjunct professor of children’s and young adult literature,
and editor of the H. W. Wilson Junior Book of Authors and Illustrators series

Download a PDF of the Teacher's Guide
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