Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

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.

I had an unusual experience reading this book. It started out slow, very slow, and I actually set it down a couple of times. When this happens, I usually end up disliking the book (after pushing through to the end, because that’s what I do). But, in this case, the opposite occurred.

After the first fifty pages or so, the story picks up quite a bit, the characters get more interesting, and the plot shifts into high gear. It was easy to see where the story was going, but I didn’t think that was a bad thing. It’s also kind of a compilation of Golden Compass, Series of Unfortunate Events, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings, but I didn’t see that as a bad thing, either. Stephens has made this story his own, despite the similarities. So many fantasy stories have been told that it’s nearly impossible to create something truly unique. Stephens used certain elements that exist in other stories, but his execution was different enough to keep the reader interested.

I really liked Kate. She’s a strong character, and her heart is in the right place. She’s also courageous, which leads her to make some pretty scary, and sometimes detrimental, decisions. Her motivations are always clear, and we can see just how much she cares for her siblings. Given her situation, this was both realistic and refreshing. She’s the main reason I wanted to keep reading, because I wanted to know what she was going to do next.

By the time we get to the end, it’s clear that the next two books will focus on Michael and Emma. I will miss Kate, but I’m very much looking forward to seeing the other two siblings take center stage.

There were only a few things that gave me pause. The bickering between Michael and Emma was realistic, but did get a bit old after a while. Fortunately, it doesn’t take up much of the overall story. The Countess was truly creepy, but I do wish there had been a tiny bit more to her, perhaps along the lines of how she ended up. I would have liked to see a bit more of that spread throughout the story. I also wish there had been a map of the area. I sometimes couldn’t keep a visual of where they were in my head.

Other than that, though, this is a great adventure story that I think boys and girls alike would enjoy.


khashway said...

I've been meaning to read this. I appreciate knowing that the start is slow. It helps me push through it if I know the story will pick up and get better, so thank you for your honesty.

Dawn Brazil said...

Thanks for the review. Sounds like something I'd like to read and get for my 6th grade son.

Catherine Stine said...

Slow starts are sometimes an integral part of a novel. It's a fine line, though, you need to pick up speed before the reader puts the book down. This one sounds worth pushing past.