The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning)
Published: April 5, 2011
Received ARC from Random House
John Stephens’ aptly-titled new fantasy trilogy begins auspiciously with a nimble, fast-paced tale of three siblings. Kate, Michael, and Emma have suffered through ten years of odious orphanage “care”; now they have slipped into the care of the eccentric, disturbingly mysterious Dr. Pym. While exploring their new home, the children discover a magical green book. With that discovery, a decade of tedium dissolves into cascades of dangerous time travel adventures and struggles with a beautiful witch and decidedly less attractive zombielike Screechers. High early reader marks for strong characterization and battle scenes. –Goodreads
When I first started seeing this book around the web I knew I had to get my hands on it. I love fantasy/adventure stories and kept hearing this was Harry Potter-like. And this book did not disappoint.
From the very beginning, Stephens pulls you into the story with non-stop action. Kate, Michael, and Emma’s parents send them off when they are babies to protect them – from what we have no idea. Over the next ten years they are bounced around from orphanage to orphanage – getting in trouble and meeting some very crazy would be parents. When they are kicked out of the worst orphanage of all, they end up at a huge house under the care of Dr. Pym. The new town and house they move to is odd and there’s something that just isn’t right. When they explore the house, they come across a secret room with a mysterious book. When they open the book and figure out it’s secret they are sent on an adventure through time – one that is full of witches, dwarfs, Screechers, and giants – that might just lead them back to their parents.
The world that Stephens creates is wonderful and the characters are real and relate able. There is so much mystery and depth to Stephen’s world and so much more left to explore. I’m sure has he gets further along in the series there is going to be more questions answered and more of the world and mystery explored. I hate that I have to wait so long to find out what happens next!
I loved the main characters in the story. Kate, the oldest, tries to be strong for her siblings and cares about everyone. She promised her parents that she would take care of her younger siblings and has spent the last 10 years doing just that. Michael, the only boy and second in line, is a very sweet and smart. He loves dwarfs and is always writing down and investigating – very studious young man. And Emma, the youngest, is just so funny and tough and sarcastic. I think she was my favorite of the three. She tries to put on a front but underneath she is struggling just as much as the other two.
I really loved this book. It was a wonderful middle grade read that I will definitely be recommending to my students. I have one copy on the shelves that has been checked out several times – and I will definitely be pushing it for my fantasy/adventure loving students. It was nice to get away from the love triangles and high school drama and just enjoy a wonderfully written fantasy adventure book.