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Doctor Illuminatus (The Alchemist's Son Series #1)

Doctor Illuminatus (The Alchemist's Son Series #1)

3.7 10
by Martin Booth

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When a family moves to an old English country estate, Sebastian, the son of an alchemist, is accidentally awakened from a centuries-long sleep. The evil enemy of Sebastian's father has also been awakened and continues to pursue his sinister plan.


When a family moves to an old English country estate, Sebastian, the son of an alchemist, is accidentally awakened from a centuries-long sleep. The evil enemy of Sebastian's father has also been awakened and continues to pursue his sinister plan.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The convoluted and unfocused first book in Booth's (War Dog) new series begins with a promising hook, but then mostly just meanders through its countryside setting. Twins Pip and Tim and their parents have just moved into an enormous 15th-century house called Rawne Barton, which has been uninhabited for roughly a decade. The sister and brother find that the walls between their bedrooms are unusually thick and, from a secret panel behind Pip's bed, out pops Sebastian Rawne, a boy who claims to be 12-and to have been born in 1430. The boy says he has been living in this universe but also a parallel universe ever since, working against the efforts of the mad alchemist Pierre de LoudEac, who wants to create a homunculus, "an artificial creature... a living human, yet one that has no soul," for evil purposes. The story arc involving Sebastian and de LoudEac unfolds at a snail's pace, interrupted by lengthy stretches of historical background and explorations of the concepts of alchemy. Although the premise of finding a visitor from the past within the walls of a centuries-old manor is intriguing, this story line gets buried by the other aspects of the tale, and the book loses steam quickly. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
A rich and fascinating science-fantasy, this novel is the first in a series that will appeal to fantasy-lovers from all reading levels. Booth uses a vivid blend of history and science to tell the story of Sebastian, a young boy from the Middle Ages who has slept the centuries away. When Pip (a.k.a. Philippa) and Tim move into their new home, Pip hears strange knocking noises behind her new bedroom wall. These noises lead to the children's discovery of the mysterious Sebastian hidden behind the wall of their parents' new country estate. At first the children are skeptical of Sebastian's tale, but Sebastian, the son of a powerful alchemist, has abilities that cannot be easily explained by modern science. Slowly they are drawn into Sebastian's plan to foil his family's arch-enemy, the evil de Loudeac. Magic and science intertwine in this mesmerizing novel as the author deftly compares modern science with the goals of alchemy, using examples as diverse as the Human Genome Project and the lab-creation of diamonds. 2004, Little Brown and Company, Ages 8 to 12.
—Laura Ruttig
A family moves into an old house on a British estate. At night, Pip hears strange knocking noises in her bedroom wall. She and her brother soon meet Sebastian, the alchemist's son, who first lived in the house in the early 15th century. Through the centuries, Sebastian has occasionally come out of hibernation to fight the evil, smelly de Loudeac—this time he enlists the help of Pip and her twin brother Tim to stop de Loudeac from creating a homunculus. The reader learns a bit about alchemy and the persecution of witches. (Sebastian's father, a Christian alchemist, was burned at the stake as a witch in 1440.) Sebastian is a great character, more interesting than the twins really, as he continues to speak in an old-fashioned manner yet is interested in learning about Tim's computer games and drinking a Pepsi in modern times. There is plenty of action, and also some scary gore that will appeal to middle school readers. The vocabulary is challenging, as are the references to the Middle Ages and to alchemy, but there are plenty of readers who will enjoy this exotic adventure. Should appeal to Potter fans and to those who read Eoin Colfer's books. Booth is a popular and praised writer in Britain, and the second book in the series, Soul Stealer, is already published in England and promised here in the States. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2003, Little Brown, , Ages 12 to 15.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-This suspenseful novel is sure to please fans of J. K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series (Scholastic) who are looking for an engaging story utilizing a more sophisticated writing style. Incorporating alchemical history, Booth introduces Pip and Tim, twins who move into an old English country estate cloaked in mystery. They meet a pale boy, Sebastian, who emerges from the walls and claims to be the son of a medieval alchemist. He leads the siblings on a journey filled with history and horror, complemented by severed limbs, strange animals, and shape-shifting. This compelling tale is replete with gruesome details of bloodshed and violence, making the story appropriate for mature children who are intrigued by horror. Religious references are relevant to the story of good versus evil, and technologically adept children will appreciate Pip and Tim's allusions to computer software and games. Readers will surely anticipate the adventures of Sebastian, Pip, and Tim in the upcoming sequel, Soul Stealer (Little, Brown, 2005).-Jessi Platt, Auburn Public Library, AL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Booth draws heavily on old alchemical texts, herb lore, and lurid accounts of witchly deeds for this chiller, but neglects to link it all with a coherent story. Shortly after moving into a restored 15th-century home, twins Pip and Tim meet Sebastian, a young Christian alchemist from the distant past who can travel down the centuries, change shape, and perform other eldritch acts. He announces that Pierre de Loudeac, a colleague gone bad, is also still around, and on the verge of creating a homunculus for unspecified mischief. For never-explained reasons, de Loudeac zeroes in on Pip, snatching bits of blood, hair, and skin while visiting gory apparitions upon both children whenever the plot needs goosing, and putting in occasional personal appearances-in various guises, but ever recognizable by his odor of "sweat, wine, and cheesy feet." Not even the occasional flayed cat, severed human leg, or whirl of inter-dimensional travel compensates for the tale's logical gaps and clumsy contrivances; some of the former, at least, may be bridged in the upcoming sequel, but even optimistic readers may be hard-put to believe it. (Fiction. 11-13)

Product Details

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Alchemist's Son Series , #1
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Doctor Illuminatus

The Alchemist's Son Part I
By Martin Booth


Copyright © 2004 the Estate of Martin Booth
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-316-15575-6

Chapter One

A Little Piece of History

Stuck to the heavy oak door was a fluorescent green Post-it Note upon which Pip's mother had written Daughter's Room with a broad blue felt-tip marker. Down the passageway, Pip could see other notes on other doors - Son's Room, Master Bedroom, Guest Room 1 and Bathroom. Each one stood out in the semi-darkness, she thought, like a glowing, square green eye.

Lifting the iron latch, Pip stepped into her new bedroom. Compared to her last, it was huge, at least four meters square, with ancient mullioned windows set in sandstone. Two of the walls were lined with dark oak panels, and the ceiling was held up by massive wooden beams as black as if they had been charred in a fire. The floorboards were each of different widths, according to where they had been cut from the trunk of the tree. As she walked to the windows, they creaked.

"Well, what do you think of it so far?"

Pip turned around. Her father was standing in the doorway.

"It's ..." Momentarily, she was lost for words.

"Is this a pretty spectacular house, or what?" her father said for her. "And this," he looked around the empty room, "is a really stupendous bedroom."

Pip grinned.Spectacular was one of her father's favorite adjectives. Stupendous was the other.

"Your last one," her father continued, "was a rabbit hutch by comparison." He came to her side and gazed out of the window. "And to think that view's hardly changed in the last five hundred years. There's not a single tree out there that hasn't got a preservation order on it. I can't so much as prune a twig without local council permission."

Following his gaze, Pip took in the neat garden with its trim flowerbeds, smooth lawn and an ancient mulberry tree in the center, the curve of the gravel drive, down the center of which grew a strip of grass, and the pasture beyond with massive oak, elm and beech trees dotted about it. Farther off still was a river lined with pollarded willows.

"Once, the house was moated," her father went on. "See beyond the edge of the garden, where the ground dips? That was it. But in the eighteenth century, it was mostly filled in to make a ha-ha."

Pip, who was never quite sure when her father was being serious, gave him one of her disparaging looks and sarcastically replied, "Ha! Ha!"

"Really," he said, briefly pretending to be hurt. "It was a landscaping feature. A ha-ha is a grassy ditch, surrounding a house, that slopes down gently towards the building, but has a stone wall on the house side. The idea was to keep animals out of the gardens without a fence or hedge spoiling the view." He turned from the window and walked over to the door. "Your mother's put the kettle on. Tea and cake in ten minutes."

After he had gone, Pip unfolded the estate agent's leaflet she had in her pocket and, not for the first time that day, read the blurb printed on the front page beneath a color photo of the front elevation of the house.

Rawne Barton, she read, situated in beautiful countryside three miles from the pretty market town of Brampton, offers a rare opportunity to purchase a Grade I-listed, landedgentleman's country house set in thirty-two acres of pasture, formerly a deer park. Originally built in 1422, but extended over the following hundred years, the property comprises a spacious and superbly appointed six-bedroom family house with extensive period features including contemporary linen-fold paneling, beamed ceilings with carved features and magnificent fireplaces. Recent extensive modernization has been conducted to the highest standards and in complete keeping with the architectural and historical aspects of the house. A range of contemporary outbuildings includes a stable (restored and providing ample space for vehicles), a coach house and a malt-house (both in need of renovation: with planning permission).

The photograph showed a building made partly of white wattle-and-daub and partly of brick with black timber beams built into the walls. Above the tiled roof stood two stacks of chimneys, added in the sixteenth century, made of the same sandstone as the window frames, but twisted in spirals like sticks of old-fashioned barley sugar.

"Do you know what barton means?"

Pip looked around to see her twin brother, Tim. The knees of his jeans were grimy, his T-shirt was smudged with dirt and his brown hair looked as if it had been lightly powdered with flour.

"Try knocking," she said sharply.

"Door's already open," Tim responded, "and I'm not coming in." He slid to the floor, leaning against the doorpost. "It means a cow shed," he went on.

"No, it doesn't," Pip corrected him. "It means a farm owned by a landowner, not given to tenants. I looked it up." She ran her eye up and down her brother. "Why are you so grubby?"

Tim ignored her question.

"And you know what Grade I-listed means, don't you?" he continued. "It means we can't put up a satellite dish. Goodbye MTV and the Cartoon Channel."

"We can have one of those square ones in the attic," Pip said. "Grade I only means you can't alter the appearance of the house or destroy any historical features."

"They don't get such a good signal," Tim rejoined. "Besides, I've seen the attic. No chance. The rest of the house might have been modernized, but that hasn't. The cobwebs are like table-tennis nets."

"You've been up there?"

"There's a door at the end of the passage," Tim said. "I thought it was an airing cupboard, because it's got shelves and a copper water cylinder in it, but at the back there's an old paneled wall. One panel has a handle and slides sideways. It's a bit of a squeeze, which is probably why the builders didn't bother to go up there. Behind that, there're steps. The attic floor's boarded, but there aren't any rooms or anything, just a big space with a little window at the end and a lot of beams, crud and cobwebs. And a dried-up dead bat."

One of the removal men appeared at the door carrying a large cardboard box with yet another Post-it Note taped to it.

"You the daughter?" he asked. "This your room?" He didn't wait for an answer but, checking the Post-it Note on the door against that on the box, entered, stepping over Tim and looking around. "Nice. Very nice. Quite a place your mum and dad've bought." He put the box down and glanced out of the window. "You know what you got here, don't you? You got a real little piece of history, you have."


Excerpted from Doctor Illuminatus by Martin Booth Copyright © 2004 by the Estate of Martin Booth. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

A well-known writer of fiction and non-fiction in England, Martin Booth wrote several books for young people including Panther, P.O.W. and War Dog. His adult novel, The Industry of Souls, was short-listed for the Booker Prize. He passed away in February 2004.

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Doctor Illuminatus (The Alchemist's Son Series #1) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Iv readed the second one and i loved it wish i had know there was a frist to reaf first lol
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Guest More than 1 year ago
What i mean is that you can learn a little bit of history in this book.When i got this book i expected it to be boring, because one of my friends readed it and thought it was really boring but i read it i thought it ROCKED!Like the other reviewers i loved this book.i think all science fiction and fanisy lovers would like this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best book I'll read all summer!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i love this book and its one of the best i ever read
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a good read, although I found the indepth descriptions of all the plant life quite annoying. I overcame this once it worked itself into the plot though. Tim and Pip seemed a little to well read for such young people in some instances. This book could've been outstanding had the reader been able to trek along with Sebastian when he went off to battle evil. Something vital would come up and off Sebastian would go and we were left to the mundane world of Tim and Pip.