Title:The Emerald Atlas Author: John Stephens Format:Hardcover, 432 pages Publisher:Knopf Books for Young Readers Release Date: April 5, 2011 Rating: 4 out of 5 HEARTS
ARC received for review from Random House
Synopsis from Goodreads Kate, Michael, and Emma have been in one orphanage after another for the last ten years, passed along like lost baggage. Yet these unwanted children are more remarkable than they could possibly imagine. Ripped from their parents as babies, they are being protected from a horrible evil of devastating power, an evil they know nothing about. Until now. Before long, Kate, Michael, and Emma are on a journey to dangerous and secret corners of the world...a journey of allies and enemies, of magic and mayhem. And—if an ancient prophesy is correct—what they do can change history, and it is up to them to set things right.
My Always Spoiler-Free* Review(*unless otherwise noted)
The Emerald Atlas is a middle grade fantasy novel that had me absolutely captivated by its story and characters. Although the very beginning reminded me a bit of Harry Potter, that comparison quickly faded into a remarkable adventure of its own, with brave young characters, hidden secrets and an action packed plot.
Kate, Michael and Emma are wonderful young protagonists because although they've been shuffled around all their lives, they haven't become jaded and instead hold on to belief that their parents love them and will one day return for them. This also gives them a uniquely tight bond, that although at times is tested, never breaks! All three also have very different personalities, Kate is the level headed one, who's brave & determined. While Michael is more of an introvert, good with facts & strategies and Emma is stubborn & impulsive.
The novel's pacing is really wonderful because although at times it moves quickly and multiple things are going on at once, it never become confusing nor did it feel rushed. I really enjoyed all the humor in the novel, since it came off very natural, especially between the siblings. Also the story got a bit dark at times, so it was a nice balance to that.
The fantasy world the children find themselves transported to, is described in such detail it feels as though I could just stubble upon it while wondering through the woods. I loved how it was beautiful yet surrounded by a feeling of dread.
The story is filled with loads of supporting characters, both good and bad (some familiar creatures, some not) that really help move the plot forward. I especially liked Gabriel since he was like a mash up of Aragorn from Lord of the Rings and Hagrid from Harry Potter. He also develops a very unique father/daughter bond with Emma that really helps develop her character and is rather important to the plot.
I loved the explanation of "The Book of Beginnings" and without spoiling anything I will just say that I wish the book had been used more. It's really hard to elaborate further, but hopefully when you read the novel for yourself you'll understand what I mean. My only other complaint is that of all three siblings the least amount of time is spent with Michael. Michael spends much of the novel alongside Kate, who is the focus of the novel, but doesn't get his own side adventure like Emma does. So while the two girls get loads to do, Michael is kept a little in the background.
Since this is the first in a trilogy, I was very pleased that this is actually explained in the novel, instead of coming to the end of the book and having it be left as some giant cliffhanger or trying to force a trilogy out of a story without much substance. Instead as the novel closes, we are left with the knowledge that the story will continue but the mystery of where it will take the children and how the plot will continue to play out.
Author John Stephen easily blends familiar fantasy elements into his own unique action packed adventure, filled with humor, suspense and three unforgettable characters. Recommended to fans of Harry Potter, C.S. Lewis, or Lemony Snicket, The Emerald Atlas is one adventure you shouldn't miss!