A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the books in the epic Nicholas Flamel series, like the Percy Jackson tales, will get kids immersed in and learning about mythology. Like its predecessors, the fourth tale in the series mixes in some historical figures (Joan of Arc, John Dee, Shakespeare, etc.) as immortals. There's some fantasy violence, mostly involving attacks from beasts, both mythological and prehistoric. A major positive theme involves what characters will do to protect and be with the ones they love.
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What's the story?
Five or so narrative threads co-exist in THE NECROMANCER, the fourth installment of the Nicholas Flamel series. Twins Sophie and Josh are back in San Francisco with the Flamels, where they encounter Scathach's twin sister, Aoife, who is desperate to find her sibling. The rapidly aging Flamels -- gearing up for a fight with the scary creatures on Alcatraz -- decide to take Josh to Prometheus to learn the Magic of Fire. Meanwhile, Dee is fleeing London after a warrant of sorts is issued for him by his Dark Elder master. He enlists the help of Virginia Dare to reach San Francisco and begin his world-domination plans. Scathach and Joan of Arc are stuck in another time and place (one that's full of hungry prehistoric beasts), while Joan's husband, Saint-Germain, seeks out the Saracen Knight and Shakespeare in hopes of finding a way to reach her. Not to be left out, Machiavelli and Billy the Kid escape Alcatraz and come face to face with a Dark Elder who won't accept any more excuses -- the beasts on Alcatraz need to be set loose on the city, and soon.
Is it any good?
If you can't follow the book summary above, you already know that skipping ahead in this series just isn't an option -- too many characters populate this world. It combines historic figures as immortals, gods of the past as Elders, older beings called Archons, whole shadowrealms parallel to our world, and magic that binds everything together. In fact, it will probably help to re-read the third book to keep up with this one. If readers love the characters, they won't mind the split-screen viewing of all their revelations here. But Josh is tougher to love -- it's not clear why he's so suspicious of Flamel but not nearly wary enough of Dee. Perhaps he'll find a way to redeem himself. ...
Splitting the story also splits the action ... and wrecks some of the momentum. At least all the complex storylines are worth following, and that's what will keep the pages turning. There are the occasional flashbacks to whole other eras, however, that are enough to make an impatient reader exclaim, "let those beasts loose on San Francisco already!" When -- well, if -- that happens, then the series will go beyond "pretty intriguing" right into "riveting" territory.
Talk to your kids about ...
- Families can talk about which characters they researched as they read through the series. What did you find out about Virginia Dare? Prometheus?
If a fantasy series was set in your home town, where would the scary creatures live? Where would the heroes live? Where would be a good place to stage a good vs. evil battle? What everyday forces of nature would have a part to play?
Most of the immortals in this story owe an allegiance to an Elder. Why do some regret it, while others don't? Is Virginia Dare, without a real master, as free as she thinks she is? What are the drawbacks of immortality? Would you like to live hundreds or thousands of years?
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