Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review: The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

The Emerald Atlas
Author: John Stephens
Publisher/Format: Knopf Books for Young Readers , ARC 432 pages
Series: Books of Beginning
Characters: Kate, Michael, Emma P.
Subject: magical fantasy, time travel
Genre: fantasy, YA
Source: ARC from publisher

I don't read many YA books, but this one may help change my reading habits. The first of three planned for the series, it definitely got my attention.  As the story opens, Kate-aged 4, Michael-aged 2, and baby Emma are summarily handed off ON CHRISTMAS EVE by their parents to the "forces of merciless darkness."  Kate's mother whispers to her not to forget that they will return for them, and makes her promise to take care of her siblings.  For ten years, the children are shuttled from one bad orphanage to even worse ones, each caretaker nastier than the previous one, and never getting any closer to finding out where their parents were, or why they were in this predicament.  They didn't even know their last name, and were given the surname "P."   Things are looking very bleak.......until they find the enchanted atlas.

It takes a bit for the action to kick in, but when it does, this one is a tweenie's delight. Using the magic book,  they travel through time (back and forth, back and forth) and find dwarves, elves, magicians, wizards, evil Countesses, witches, hidden treasures, and become involved in adventure chases that make Indiana Jones look like a wimp.  There are enough bad guys to wipe out the planet (and they almost do), and enough good guys to hopefully help the kids save the day, find their parents and get back to a normal life.  As with most stories of this ilk, the biggest problem is often the difficulty of distinguishing the good guys from the bad. The well-plotted page turner keeps the reader willing to stay up late reading 'just one more chapter.' 

The ending is sufficiently satisfying but certainly leaves the reader anxiously waiting for the next volume.  This one is due out in early April, and fans of good solid fantasy should be lined up to start this series.  Harry Potter fans now have something besides re-reads to fill their reading time.


  1. I saw this one offered but didn't thing it was for me. Maybe I was wrong...

  2. I loved this book and think it will be a great series replacement for H.P. fans.

  3. I really liked this one too but haven't written my review yet. I'm definitely looking forward to the sequels.


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