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Discussion Module

The Alchemyst

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel
by
Michael Scott

Publishing Information: Delacorte Press: New York, 2007
ISBN: 0385733577 / 9780385903721
Pages
: 400 p.
Ages: 12 & Up

Summary:
San Francisco, fifteen-year-old twins, Sophie and Josh, suddenly find themselves caught up in the deadly, centuries-old struggle between rival alchemists, Nicholas Flamel and John Dee, over the possession of an ancient and powerful book holding the secret formulas for alchemy and everlasting life.

Book Talk:
http://www.randomhouse.com/teens/alchemyst
The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris in 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 John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won’t know what’s happening until its too late. And if the prophecy is right, twins Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Alchemists
Books
Dee, John, 1527-1608
Flamel, Nicolas, d. 1418
Immortality
Magic
Mythoglogy
Prophecies
Quests
San Francisco, California
Supernatural
Siblings
Summer Employment
Twins
Vampires
Werewolves

Awards & Reviews:
Booklist, May 1, 2007, p. 86
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2007
Publishers Weekly
, March 5, 2007, p. 61
School Library Journal, May 1, 2007, p. 142 (Starred Review)


Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. Why does Perenelle use a ghost to help her communicate with Flamel? Why can’t she call on beings of the Elder Race?
  6. 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?
  7. 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?
  8. 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?
  9. 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?
  10. 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?
  11. 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?

    Questions were drawn from: www.randomhouse.com/catalog/teachers_guides/9780385733571.pdf

Activity Ideas :

  1. The first chapter of Book 2 is printed in the back of The Alchemyst. Write an additional chapter of this story as you would like to see it unfold.
  2. 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.
  3. Look up these words and determine the specific differences between them: magic, alchemy, necromancy, scrying, astrology, divination, sorcery, and aura.
  4. Look up the word codex as it applies to the history of printing. How is a codex different from a modern book?

Related Websites:
Author's Website:   http://www.dillonscott.com/
The Alchemy Lab: http://www.alchemylab.com/flamel.htm
Encyclopedia Mythica: http://www.pantheon.org
The John Dee Society: http://www.johndee.org

Read-a-Likes:
The Akhenaten Adventure by Philip Kerr, 2004
The Alchemist’s Door
by Lisa Goldstein, 2002
The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, 2003
Anatopsis by Chris Abouseid, 2006
Heart of Valor by L. J. Smith, 1990
Iris, Messenger by Sarah Deming, 2007
Lucy’s Blade by John Lambshead, 2007
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, 2005 (A 2004 RITBA Nominee)
Magic by the Book by Nina Bernstein, 2005
Pantheon High: Volume 1 by Benjamin Paul, 2007
The Poison Master
by  Liz Williams, 2003
The Secret of the Sires by Julia Golding, 2007
The Shadow Theives, 2006
Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy, 2007
Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C.Wrede, 1989
The Summer King by  O. R. Melling, 2006
The Tiger's Apprentice by Laurence Yep, 2003
Walking the Dead by L.M. Falcone, 2005
The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
The Water Mirror by Kai Meyer, 2005
The Wind Singer: An Adventure by William Nicholson, 2000

Other Books by the Author:
October Moon, 1994
Silverhand
, 1995
Silverlight, 1996
Etruscans
, 2000
The Merchant Prince, 2000
The Magician, 2008 (Sequel to The Alchemyst )

Vampyres of Hollywood, 2008

About the Author:
An authority on mythology and folklore, Michael Scott is one of Ireland's most successful authors. Writing in genres of fantasy, science-fiction, horror, and folklore, he was hailed by the Irish Times as "The King of Fantasy in These Isles." He lives and writes in Dublin, Ireland. (from the hardcover edition)

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