Saturday, February 19, 2011

Review: The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens ★★★★★

The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning)I requested this book thinking that it would be a fun and magical children's story aimed at 8-10 year olds, like with the Percy Jackson series, but I was really surprised by the complexity and depth in this book, as well as the darkness, and loved every minute of reading it. I'm actually a little disappointed that I'll now have to wait for so long to read the next book and see what happens.

Kate, Michael and Emma have been shunted from orphanage to orphanage for 10 years, since being removed from their parents' house one Christmas Eve with a kiss and a promise that they'll be reunited again... one day. Then, after missing their last chance at placement with a foster family, they are sent to Cambridge Falls, where they stumble on an adventure that has been both 15 and thousands of years in the making.

This story reminded me of other children's stories - but only little bits and pieces. There was nothing I could really point to and say, "Oh, he was inspired by THIS story here," or anything like that, it was more just an impression that I had. I was reminded of Harry Potter, only kind of in reverse, with the opening scene of the children being taken away from their home. I was reminded of E.Nesbit's stories as well throughout the book, mainly by the tone and the family loyalty theme. I was reminded of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe a few times, and The Hobbit a few times, etc. But again, these were more like impressions that I had, rather than feeling like anything was actually borrowed from what came before.

Despite feeling a vague sense of familiarity with these books, I felt like The Emerald Atlas was very original and different. I loved the concept of time travel, and how it actually came about. I thought it was just the right level of complex to logically and magically work, but was still explained in a way that everyone could understand and follow. The storyline was exciting and the creatures and characters were all interesting.

I loved the characters - they were all believable and identifiable to me, and I couldn't help but love them and their loyalty. Kate is the eldest, and promised her parents that she would watch out for the others. She's got a load of responsibility on her shoulders to match Atlas (which is pretty significant, actually), and she's got a heart of gold. She just can't stand seeing anyone suffer or hurt, and instantly falls into a nurturing role when needed. Emma was my favorite, I think. She's the youngest, and the type of girl who's strong and forceful because she cannot take being hurt, not when that's all she's ever known. She's quick to love though, and her love is a little desperate and fierce. I loved her and I can't wait to see her next adventure. Michael, the middle child, was hilarious. A studious Dwarf-scholar, he is the smart and logical one of the trio. He was constantly making me laugh by his bald-faced awe in a lot of the situations they were in. I truly loved how each of the children brought their own unique aspects and each played and intricate role in the story and worked as a team. I was glad that they had trials, because they each had time to shine.

There was a lot more that I loved about this, but I think that I'll just recommend that you read it yourselves. I highly recommend this one - for readers of all ages.


  1. Sounds like a great book! I don't think I've heard about this one before, so I will definitely need to check into it!!

  2. I remember coming across the ARC application for this book several months ago. The write-up billed this book series as the next Harry Potter. I winced. Was I sure I wanted to take this on? I hated Harry Potter, as heretical a statement that is these days. I imagined dry descriptions and tired dialogue. Somewhere during this, though, I filled out the application anyway.