This is the newest book I've read in the last month. It's by an Irish author who is an authority on mythology and folklore. You can tell by reading his newest novel. The story is packed full with mythological figures, mainly goddesses from various pantheons, which, like in every respectable fantasy, are very much real, alive and kicking (literally).
The Alchemist of the title is the famous Nicholas Flamel (for more informations read the article on wikipedia), an historical figure who is believed to have discovered the secret of eternal life, and achieved the creation of the philosophical stone through the mysterious Book of Abraham.
His arch-nemesis is another historical name, Dr John Dee, who lived during the Elizabethan age, and worked as the Queen's philosopher, astronomer,mathematician etc. And he was an alchemist.
The only names that Scott actually made up are the two twins',who, like in every respectable fantasy, are meant to be heroes, discover immense magic powers, and save the world from destruction.
But if you forget these stereotypes the novel is a real page-turner. Flamel and the other mythological characters are well chosen. The story is full of action, magic and dangerous situations. Just think that it happens in only 48 hours and it's the first chapter of a series of books, So even if we're provided with an ending, we don't have all the answers and we should be prepared to see at least other two books. The next one is in preparation already and will be called "The Magician".
The most interesting scenes take place in Hekate's realm, where the goddess has recreated a prehistorical world and where she lives in the mythical tree of life, Yggrasil. The rest is pure good fun, and I'm sure I'll read the next installment as soon as it's out. But I can't help to notice some of the book's faults:
The boy is really irritating. Whining, ungrateful and always making useless,careless remarks. Also I found the writing style rather repetitive. Just to give an example, we're reminded at least three times that driving a car isn't like playing a videogame. Not to mention the various times the characters are told that their lives won't be the same from then on.
And finally, the effort to speak to the young people and place the story in our time was maybe too evident. The writer never fails to mention all our most modern gadgets and technology (Ipods, laptops, internet,mobiles, videogames, satellite navigators etc...) and if the idea of having a goddess that can be contacted by mobile phone is funny and it actually integrates well with the story, the rest is a bit too much.
All this said, the action is gripping and the ideas are somewhat originals. It'll be perfect for a readerships of 10+ year-old kids.