Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

The Emerald Atlas (The Books of Beginning, #1)
by John Stephens 

Genre: Fantasy/Adventure
Reading Grade: Middle Grade
Publishing Type: traditional
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
Source: local library (hardcover)
Age Rating: 13+ (a bit of violence)

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 zombie-like Screechers.

My Review

I decided to read this book because it has been getting a lot of hype since it was published. People have been claiming it's going to be the next 'Harry Potter' series, but I won't make comparisons to Harry Potter. It is a high fantasy type of book that deals with time-travel and all the interesting things that can change, and how dangerous that power is in the wrong hands.

There are an abundance of fantasy characters, like dwarves, witches, zombie-like ghouls, ferocious monsters, and lots of battling going on with plenty of the need for the main characters to save the world from total ruination. The characters are well-drawn up and very exaggerated, which I like. My favorites were Dr. Pym, Michael, Emma, and the witch's Secretary. There are lots of funny and entertaining characters here, even if Kate, the main character, isn't as interesting as the rest.

The premise is fascinating, in that there are these three books and they were all written by ancient wizards long ago about the magic of the universe. They all possess great power and the one that is the subject of this volume is the Altas. It is the book that allows for passage through time and space, giving that traveler immense power to manipulate any point in time. Of course, an evil character wants the book, so the children have to stop this character from succeeding with the help of the old, eccentric Dr. Pym.

It would be best suited for younger teenagers—not elementary school-aged children. There is a bit of violence and even a little light cursing, so I'd recommend it for middle school kids and older. Although, I'm not the in target audience for this book, I think it would be a big hit with those who love reading Middle Grade adventure/fantasy fiction. I look forward to the next installment in the series. There is still much the children need to accomplish, and I need more of that capital fellow, Dr. Pym.

My score: 4 out of 5 stars.


  1. The new HP? I am totally there. Since I'm on my adult novel foray, reading this will be regressing but it seems totally worth it. I guess I'm destined to live young through my reading forever.

  2. I've only heard good buzz about this book. I really need to check it out. Glad you liked it.
    Great review!

  3. Oh, will definitely check this out for my eldest. He's devoured all the HP books, Artemis Fowl, Secrets of the Immortal Nicolas Flammel, I'm always searching for new books for my bookworm-in-training. :)

  4. @Lan: I'm destined to live young through... well, everything!

    @Andrea: Yeah, all the buzz has been good from those you can trust. Only bad stuff comes from weird Goodreads reviewers. I don't pay attention to them for any books.

    @BJ: LOL, bookworm-in-training! That is so cute. I'm sure your training him well, since he sees Mama reading all the time.

  5. Doesn't ever new children's fantasy book get compared to Harry Poy tter if it's good? This doesn't sound anything like Harry Potter. It does sound like a book with a lot of action. Definitely curious.

  6. @Alison: Yeah! Don't they all? It's very adventurous and exciting, and that's probably about all that you can say to compare it to Harry Potter. It's its own thing. A great Middle Grade adventure story.

  7. I am glad I kept reading. While the aforementioned nods to other great children's literature do exist, Stephens begins to weave his own tale. The characters are ones for whom you can champion. I am a major fan of books that incorporate strong female characters, and Stephens does this twice with both Kate and Emma. He also manages to do so while keeping in consideration the fact that they are still children.


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