Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review: The Emerald Atlas

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Childrens (14 April 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0857530186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857530189
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 199,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

They were taken from their beds one frozen night, when the world was covered in snow. The silhouette of a tall, thin man has haunted Kate ever since.

Ten years on, Kate, Michael and Emma have grown up in a string of miserable orphanages, and all memories of their parents have faded to a blur. Arriving at Cambridge Falls, the children quickly realise there is something different about this place – and Kate feels sure she has seen the dark, crooked house before.

As they exlplore, they discover an old, empty leather book. The moment they touch it, an ancient magical prophecy is set irrevocably in motion, and the children are thrown into a dangerous alternate reality of dark enchantments and terrifying monsters. Only they can prevent the terrible event that will ruin Cambridge Falls – and stop the world from falling into complete devastation.

I was fortunate to receive The Emerald Atlas as an advanced review copy. The accompanying letter warned that the moment the first chapter was read, everything else would fall to the wayside. Never have truer words been written.
The opening chapter sets the perfect tone for the book, instantly upping the pace to get your heart racing and putting you on the edge of your seat, but also envelops you with a fierce sense of love and protection.
The Emerald Atlas is told through the eyes of abandoned children Kate, Michael and Emma as they bounce from orphanage to orphanage (though they shall fervently deny they are orphans) when an un-held tongue over a swan hat lands them at the home in Cambridge Falls. The moment the children arrive at the foreboding place, they know something is amiss; and not just because there aren’t any other children living there.
The characters of Kate, Michael and Emma are strong enough to lead the reader through the story, and in the process makes you fall completely in love with them. They are charming and sympathetic and I dare anyone not to chuckle at their brotherly and sisterly antics.
As the story evolves, so does the history. Stephens does such a good job of describing his fantastical lands you forget you are reading fiction, and instead believe it is a long-lost part of history that would certainly make our own more entertaining. He throws many sub-characters into the mix, heroic and stubborn dwarves, strong and handsome giants, beautiful and deadly witches.
The Emerald Atlas will haunt your waking thoughts, and possess your sleeping ones as you try (and fail) to keep one step ahead of the story and try to figure out what twist may come next. It has an essence of Lord of the Rings, with similar creatures and powerful objects, and a heart not unlike Harry Potter, finding three children desperately clinging to the ghostly memories of their parents as they learn they aren’t as ordinary as they once thought.
The book has its fair share of heartbreak, triumphs and exhausting battles. Almost without trying, it keeps readers attention and leaves them aching to know what happens next.
The first of three books, The Emerald Atlas sets the bar for which the other two books will need to measure up. I doubt the author will have any trouble in this and I am eager to see what adventure Kate, Michael and Emma will take me on next.
I believe The Emerald Atlas has earned itself a spot among the great literary works of fantasy. Adults and children alike can fall in love with its secrets and mysteries. This book can proudly sit aside the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis.


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