Teacher's Guide: The Alchemyst
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
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
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.
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