Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

Rating: 5/5 Hoots

Release Date: April 5, 2011 Summary:
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.

My Review:
I was blown away by this book! The Emerald Atlas is a great read that will have wide appeal to tweens and teens. Readers looking for the next great fantasy/adventure series will be thrilled!  The Emerald Atlas excels in a lot of different areas: plot, characterization, setting, and style. 

The plot has lots of familiar elements- orphans, a quest, magical items, an evil witch, time travel, a magical mentor, dwarves, etc. but John Stephens does an awesome job to incorporate them all into a fresh, original story that grips the reader from the very beginning. I really liked that the excitement began right away- you don't have to wade through 100 pages first to set the story up, it is done concisely in the prologue and first chapter. The story alternates between bursts of intense, exciting action and periods of character development and reflection. I liked that you could never quite tell what was coming next...even if you could guess at the conclusion might be, you would never guess how the characters came to achieve it! 

The characters were all interesting and well developed. The main character is Kate, the oldest of the 3 P. orphans. Her character is devoted to caring for and protecting her brother and sister, and has a strong sense of duty. She is very loyal, brave and tender. The youngest sibling is Emma, and she is the feistiest of the bunch. She hates to be told what to do and often picks fights, but she also has a huge heart. I loved that the girls were both strong female characters in their own ways. The middle sibling is Michael, and he is the bookish one who loves to study things (especially dwarves!). The 3 are a great cohesive family...the squabbles that they have are hilarious, but the underlying love in their relationship is apparent as well. There are great supporting characters too...Gabriel, the tough warrior who forms an unlikey bond with Emma; Mr. Pym the mysterious magician who helps the children on their quest,  and the cruel but beautiful Countess and her lackeys the Screechers were characters you love to hate! 

The setting was original as well- the town of Cambridge Falls is an elusive place where the magical world meets our own. I loved that the setting was pretty timeless...there was nothing to indicate what year it might be, and it was easy to imagine it taking place now, or 20, 30 or even 50 years ago. I like that it will still seem relevant and exciting to readers 10 years down the road.

I really liked John Stephens writing style- it is exciting and easy to follow, and I loved how the story began with the 3 main characters on the same path, and then switched the perspective back and forth as they ended up on their own adventures. I liked how he addressed the time travel issue- I hate when authors use it as a construct of the story and don't explain how it works! I really enjoyed the subtle reminded me a little bit of Series of Unfortunate events, but it wasn't so silly that you didn't take the story seriously. I am amazed at how well he incorporated action & excitement, tender moments, and humor- I love a well-rounded book!

The Emerald Atlas is the first book in the Books of Beginning series- I can't wait to find out what the next books are called and when they will be available!

1 comment:

  1. I really loved this book too! I picked it up not knowing much about it and not really sure if I'd like it, but I was blown away.