Book Review: The Alchemist

A Cover Illustration of The Alchemist
  • Book Title: The Alchemist
  • Author: Paulo Coelho
  • Reviewer: Rahmat Zeb Khan

If there’s one book that can be described as a literary pilgrimage for the soul, it’s Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist.”

This enchanting novel takes readers on an extraordinary journey of self-discovery, weaving together themes of destiny, purpose, and the transformative power of following one’s dreams. From the dusty streets of Andalusia to the majestic pyramids of Egypt, Coelho crafts a tale that resonates deeply with the human spirit.

A young shepherd boy, Santiago is the main character, meant to be a priest, he has a personal calling to be a traveler. For one to be a traveler in the setting one must possess a great amount of money or else be a shepherd, as his father tells him.

Santiago then opted to be a shepherd because he didn’t have that much money to afford the expenses of traveling and also a leeway to make his father let him leave. On top of this, his father also wished to be a traveler, but he couldn’t fulfill his dream and it was a joy to see his son have the will to fulfill them. Thus, Santiago becomes a shepherd and sets out on his journey.

Just like any other journey, Santiago encountered several characters.

At one point, he met an old woman who resided in one of the towns called, Tarifa and was famous for interpreting dreams.

She tries to interpret Santiago’s dreams by taking his hands into hers and starting a prayer which sounds gypsy, and as the boy is already familiar with gypsy characters on the road he is alarmed at this point.

The Tarifa-based woman warns him of the hidden treasure that he is going to find which further propels his journey toward the pyramids.

However, this time, Santiago embarks on a quest to find a hidden treasure backed by recurring dreams making him believe that his destiny lies beyond the confines of his familiar surroundings.

Armed with courage and curiosity, he sets off on his journey, encountering characters who serve as guides, mentors, and fellow travelers along the way.

The book cover of The Alchemist.

Later on, he meets an old man named Melchizedek, the king of Salem.

Melchizedek encounters Santiago while he is reading a book. He interrupts him, time and again, and tries to strike up a conversation with him.

The boy becomes angry with him but on remembering his father’s advice on the elderly, he calms down and engages in a conversation only for the older man to open up about his dreams as well.

Later on, with a bunch of several other travelers in a Caravan, they camp at a small community in a desert, having heard of war-like rumors about the direction they were heading.

It is at this camp that Santiago meets an Alchemist and the alluring desert woman known as Fatima.

Each interaction at this camp, serves as a stepping stone on Santiago’s path to self-discovery, challenging him to confront his fears, embrace his intuition, and ultimately, to listen to the language of the universe.

Once the war was rumored to have calmed down, Santiago traversed the vast expanse of the desert, he learned valuable lessons about the nature of life, love, and the pursuit of one’s legend.

Along the way, he grapples with doubt and uncertainty, facing setbacks and obstacles that test his resolve.

Yet, through perseverance and faith, Santiago discovers that the true treasure lies not in material riches, but in the journey itself—the experiences, the connections, and the wisdom gained along the way.

At its core, “The Alchemist” is a timeless parable about the importance of following one’s heart and trusting in the unseen forces that guide our lives.

Coelho’s prose is lyrical and evocative, transporting readers to exotic landscapes and ancient civilizations with vivid imagery and poetic language. The novel’s universal themes resonate with readers of all ages and backgrounds, offering a message of hope and inspiration in a world often fraught with uncertainty and doubt.

Throughout the novel, Santiago’s journey mirrors the archetypal hero’s journey, as he undergoes a series of trials and transformations that lead him closer to his true self.

From the humble beginnings of a shepherd boy to the enlightened soul who discovers the alchemy of the heart, Santiago’s evolution is both profound and deeply relatable. His quest for treasure becomes a metaphor for the search for meaning and purpose in life, reminding readers that the greatest treasures are often found within.

As Santiago reaches the culmination of his journey at the foot of the Egyptian pyramids, he discovers that the treasure he sought was within him all along. In a moment of profound realization, Santiago understands that true fulfillment comes not from external possessions, but from living in alignment with one’s true purpose and destiny. It’s a poignant reminder that the greatest treasures in life are often the ones that cannot be measured or quantified.

Important lines from the novel to note:

And, when you want something, the whole universe conspires to help you to achieve it.

It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.

When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.

People learn, early in their lives, what is their reason for being.

Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.

The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.

When you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed.

Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.

Santiago as illustrated by The Medium.


“The Alchemist” explores several important themes that resonate deeply with readers:

Personal Legend

At the heart of the novel is the concept of the “personal legend,” which refers to one’s unique destiny or life purpose. Santiago’s journey is driven by the pursuit of his legend, and the novel encourages readers to discover and pursue their dreams and aspirations.

Destiny and Fate

Coelho delves into the idea of destiny and fate, suggesting that there is a greater cosmic order at work in the universe. Through Santiago’s journey, the novel explores how individuals can align themselves with their destiny and fulfill their potential.

Spiritual Growth

Santiago’s journey is not just a physical one but also a spiritual odyssey. He undergoes a profound inner transformation as he encounters various challenges and learns from his experiences. The novel emphasizes the importance of spiritual growth and self-discovery on the path to fulfillment.

Language of the Universe

Coelho introduces the concept of the “language of the universe,” suggesting that there are hidden signs and omens that guide individuals toward their destinies. Santiago learns to interpret these signs and listen to his intuition, illustrating the interconnectedness of all things.

Power of Dreams

Dreams play a central role in the novel, symbolizing the aspirations and desires that drive individuals forward. Coelho emphasizes the importance of dreaming big and having the courage to pursue one’s dreams, even in the face of uncertainty and adversity.

Love and Connection

Along his journey, Santiago encounters love in various forms, including romantic love with Fatima and spiritual love with the desert. The novel explores the transformative power of love and the deep connections that bind individuals together.

Omens and Synchronicity

Throughout the narrative, Santiago encounters various omens and experiences moments of synchronicity that guide him on his journey. These events highlight the interconnectedness of all things and the subtle ways in which the universe communicates with those who are open to its guidance.


In conclusion, “The Alchemist” is a masterful work of fiction that speaks to the soul with timeless wisdom and insight. Through Santiago’s journey, readers are invited to embark on their quest for meaning and fulfillment, guided by the principles of faith, courage, and the pursuit of one’s legend. Whether read as a spiritual allegory or a captivating adventure tale, “The Alchemist” is a book that leaves a lasting impression, reminding us of the power of dreams to shape our destiny and transform our lives.

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Rahmat Zeb Khan hails from Pakistan and is a BS-English Literature and Linguistics student at COMSATS University Islamabad, Abbottabad Campus. His contacts:



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