The Alchemist makes a charming audiobook. Review by S.K. Slevinski

Book Cover

In Print
Paolo Coehlo's The Alchemist comes to audio in an excellent production read by actor Jeremy Irons. The book itself is a charming tale, and while not inappropriately billed as fantasy, it reads much more like a fable or a children's novel.

This novel follows the story of a boy who makes his living as a shepherd. While he enjoys this life, he is not wholly satisfied because of a recurrent dream telling him that he will find treasure at the pyramids. On the advice of a fortune-teller and a mysterious man who claims to be a king, the boy decides to sell his flock and follow the directives of the dream. Along the way he meets both challenges and successes, and all the while wrestles with the question of whether he should continue to follow the omens of his dreams. As he travels the world meeting new people and experiencing new ways of life, he is often tempted to settle for a new life, without continuing on to Egypt. But after he meets a wise alchemist, he decides to see his dream to the end, go to the pyramids, and discover precisely what this treasure might be.

Book Cover

On Audio
While this story is certainly well-written and filled with magic and imagination, the story arc and prose style will be familiar to many adults who remember children's tales from their youth or who regularly read such tales to children. While the subtitle of this book aptly informs us to expect "A Fable About Following Your Dream" it is not marketed specifically as a young adult or children's novel, at least in the sources where I found it. While its storybook quality should not detract from the enjoyment of adult readers, it may disappoint some fantasy fans who were expecting a more complex and varied tale of fantasy adventure.

That said, this is an excellent choice for audiobook readers, especially those who may be looking for a brief book (4 discs) that will fit into a short car trip.

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S.K. Slevinski is senior editor for ARWZ Literary Magazine and a long time reader of alternative reality fiction. She is currently a graduate student, specializing in folklore.