Friday, October 21, 2011

The Emerald Atlas

The Emerald Atlas, Book One: The Books of Beginning, by John Stephens (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011).

Fourteen-year-old Kate has always tried to do what her mother charged her to do--take care of her two younger siblings, Michael and Emma--as they've bounced from one orphanage to another in the ten years since their parents disappeared, most likely to save their children.  Now the kids have landed in a strange and dilapidated mansion in the ghostly town of Cambridge Falls, and they soon learn that they have unique powers and a special destiny linked to a magical book with world changing implications.

How many times have you heard a book called "the next Harry Potter" or "Lightning Thief" and rolled your eyes?  Yeah, me too.  But this one is the real deal with all the right components--sad orphans, a kind yet powerful and mysterious wizard, time travel, epic battles, frightening magical creatures, dwarves, a menacingly evil countess, and a plot to achieve world domination. Naturally, Kate and her siblings are the only humans who can foil the countess's plan!  And they'll get to save the inhabitants of Cambridge Falls, too. The time travel gets a bit confusing, but the characters themselves are equally mystified by what is transpiring. The orphans are well developed as individuals and the many supporting characters are equally engaging, with the dwarves' antics meriting special attention for humor. Overall, Stephens has concocted an intoxicating tale, perfect for readers aged 9 & up.  Younger readers may also enjoy it as a read aloud.  Highly recommended.

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