Book: The Magician: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel
Author: Michael Scott
Age Range: 10-14
The Magician is the sequel to Michael Scott's The Alchemyst, in the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series. The story picks up immediately following that of the first book, with the arrival of Nicholas Flamel, twins Sophie and Josh Newman, and warrior Scathach in Paris. Their rival, John Dee, is joined by the somewhat reluctant ally Niccolo Machiavelli. Both men were made immortal by Elders, and owe those Elders service, at whatever the cost. Machiavelli has a high position in the French secret service, and is in a position to use legal means to stop Flamel and his charges. Fortunately, Josh and Sophie's team uncovers new allies, too.
My take is pretty much the same for this book as for The Alchemyst. I enjoy the way that Scott's magical world is intermixed with our real world, and even used to explain certain historical events. I very much like the way that actual historical characters are featured in the books, and shown using modern technology. In The Magician, Jon of Arc is a supporting character, and she is marvelous. There are passages like this:
"I know what it is like to hear voices inside my head; I know what it is like to see the impossible, to know the unknowable." (Page 196)
""We wait," Joan said firmly in the voice that has once commanded armies. She placed her tiny foot on the manhole cover." (Page 392)
I kind of like Machiavelli, too, even though he is on the wrong side of the conflict. He stores his spells on a computer, because he "had always used the latest technology". And despite many skills, he can't drive.
"He had mastered the most arcane and difficult arts, had manipulated society and politics for half a millennium, was fluent in a dozen languages, could program in five computer languages and was one of the world's experts on quantum physics. And he still couldn't drive a car. It was embarrassing." (Page 316)
Like the first book, the Magician is action-packed and suspenseful, with various battles, grotesque monsters, rampant destruction, and a creepy scene set in the catacombs below Paris. Scott alternates between multiple narratives (including the thread of Flamel's wife, Perenelle, who is being held prisoner by Dee on Alcatraz). He uses the transitions to build suspense for each part of the story. I found this second book to be a bit faster-paced than the first, with more humor.
And yet... I still found that I couldn't identify sufficiently with the main characters, Josh and Sophie. Sophie demonstrates considerable magical skill in this book, and even uses her clever human mind to save the day from time to time. Josh spends a bit more time than the reader might prefer being jealous of the fact that Sophie was awakened before him. He does show bravery, and concern for his sister, but also reveals an ugly streak of bare ambition. I think that the reader is meant to identify with his human flaws, but I find him annoying. I think the real problem is that Josh and Sophie both feel like pawns, in a book where the adult and immortal characters are the ones who understand what's going on.
I'll still pick up the third book in the series, The Sorceress, when it's available next spring. I'm interested to see which historical characters in London have become immortal, and what side they're on. And I'm intrigued by the hint of the title that Perenelle may play a more major role. I'm curious about the story. But I won't be waiting for this book with the same degree of anticipation that I have for, say, the fifth Percy Jackson book, because I don't care about the young protagonists in the same way.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.