Christina (Reading Extensively)'s Reviews > The Emerald Atlas

The Emerald Atlas by John  Stephens
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Feb 15, 12

bookshelves: juvenile, read2011, fantasy
Read in November, 2011

The Emerald Atlas has been compared to Harry Potter and Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events. I'd say the book is more like the latter with a dash of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe thrown in for good measure. I found it to be an engrossing fantasy with dastardly villains, surprising plot twists, magic, humor, and fun characters. The story has familiar elements but at the same time manages to somehow be original.

I like that the main characters are pretty ordinary, unlike Lemony Snickett's Baudelaire siblings who are all unusually intelligent for their age. Kate, Michael, and Emma's strengths are their devotion to each other, their belief in their parents' love for them, and their desire to do the right thing. At the beginning of the novel it feels like Kate is the main character but she does share equal space with Michael and Emma later on. Kate is protective and mothering which is understandable given their circumstances. Michael is bookish and he has a mania for dwarves, constantly quoting from a guide to dwarves-a prized possession from his dad. Emma is feisty and has a temper. She is a little sister trying to prove she is grown up too. At times the characters reminded me of the siblings in A Series of Unfortunate Events or even the interaction between Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia.

The villains are pretty creepy, especially the Countess. The Countess reminded me a little bit of the White Witch of Narnia. She couldn't turn people to stone but she could use her voice to control people and create illusions. She derived pleasure from hurting people, even kids. She was quite a nasty piece of work. Her nemesis, Dr. Pym, is like a mix of Dumbledore and Gandalf. He is equally powerful but in a quiet way. The other main character is Gabriel, a villager who is brave enough to stand up to the Countess when other adults wouldn't.

Overall, I thought this was a great start to the series. I was originally drawn to the book because of the reviews comparing it to such great fantasy novels but while The Emerald Atlas can't live up to Harry Potter it is still a good story. I particularly enjoyed the fantasy elements like the dwarves and screechers, the time travel, and the mystery surrounding the Atlas. The author is a screenwriter and perhaps that is why I could easily see this being adapted to film. I would suggest this book to fans of MG and YA fantasy or adventure.

Readalikes: A Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snickett, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
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