Story Study: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott

Though it’s been a few years since I read this series, it still reigns as my favorite YA fantasy saga to this day. More importantly, it opened up a new possibility within the fantasy genre for me, which is why it’s earned a spot as my next Story Study.

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My first encounter: I was at Barnes and Noble, looking for a new fantasy series to get into. I assume I had gift card money to spend and wanted a few first books of fantasy series to sample, as I’d recently grown out of my Erin Hunter’s Warriors stage. The Alchemist, the first book in Michael Scott’s The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, caught my eye, so I purchased it along with two other books from other series. Of those three books, I went on to continue two of those fantasy series, and by far the one that I enjoyed most was The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. This series is at the top of my “Must Reread” list right now, as I have very fond memories of the books and want to refresh myself with the story. Still, its impact on my writing is pretty memorable even after four or five years.

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What I love: By far the most compelling aspect of this series is how Scott combines the modern with mythology and world history. The unique way elements of myths and historic events mesh together to paint an intriguing picture of our world is super interesting to explore and discover with the main characters. As a lover of mythology and history, I find Scott’s depiction of the world to be very cool and the thing I remember loving most about the series. You’d never know when another mythological figure would appear or when a vague and controversial historical occurrence would be explained by an element of the fantasy world.

I liked the characters and their relationships. The MCs are twins whose relationship with one another is challenged by the story events and caused them to take slightly different paths. Scott wrote complex characters in addition to his MCs, creating depictions of historical figures in line with and building upon their known lives. Several characters also had evolving and shifting motivations, making them very intriguing as it was difficult to tell if they’d end up helping or hindering the heroes. All in all, I thought the character writing to be excellent in the series.

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What critiques I have: Since I haven’t read this series in a while, I confess it’s difficult for me to critique the series. That being said, I do recall two elements of the series that didn’t work so well for me. One deals with a very spoiler-ish twist about the MCs revealed in the final book, which I won’t go into details about here. However, I will say that the twist seemed too sudden or random in my opinion. It worked, but not because it was well set-up. It felt more like a coincidental aspect of the story than the original plan. Then again, I’d have to reread the series to see if there were more hints dropped early on in the series that I may have missed.

A second critique concerns the mythos and history of the world. Though cool, later in the series the scope of ancient history grew so massive with little bearing on the story line that I finished the series with unresolved questions about the world. (Either that, or it just wasn’t that memorable because it wasn’t important to the story itself.) It’s not annoying or broad enough to distract from the enjoying story, but still confusing enough that I’m dissatisfied with the few answers I did receive.

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My greatest takeaways: Arguably this story impacted my writing life and goals more than any other, as this series is the reason why I write “modern fantasy,” or fantasy stories set in our contemporary world. Fantasy among us is a major premise of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, and one I personally fell in love with. I was fascinated by the concept so much I wanted to create my own worlds within our own, instead following the typical fantasy trend of creating other worlds, usually medieval, set apart from ours. Nowadays, I bring the supernatural to the mundane and our contemporary experiences in just about every story I write.

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Short and sweet this week, but I believe I’ve done  The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel justice. Go check this series out if you haven’t read it!

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