Rebecca's Reviews > The Emerald Atlas

The Emerald Atlas by John  Stephens
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Jan 19, 12

bookshelves: adventure, children, family-story, fantasy
Read in January, 2012

When Kate was four, her parents were forced to send her and her younger brother and sister into hiding, to keep them safe. The last thing Kate's mother said to her was to look out for her brother and sister. Ten years and umpteen orphanages later, each one worse than the last, Kate has kept her promise. But now the spiteful orphanage manager has sent them to an "orphanage" in Cambridge Falls, up into the wilds of New York--so far that even locals haven't heard of it. The "orphanage"--in which they are the only children, is a decrepit old mansion, in the depths of which they discover a strange book with blank pages. When they lay a photo on one of the pages, it takes them to the exact place and time of the photo--fifteen years previously, when the entire area was ruled by a cruel Countess who is keeping all the children of Cambridge Falls hostage until the men of the town find the magical object she is seeking. Soon the children are plunged into a wild adventure from which they might never return.

I thought this was an amazing book, though part of its amazingness might derive from Jim Dale's narration--he's brilliant with voices and accents. In any case, it was really well paced, with tons of action mingled with breathing spaces. Surprises lurked around every corner of the plot, filled with creatures unheard of as well as more familiar settings and creatures. The characters were well-constructed and interesting, with a lot of depth. Stephens also manages to keep that delicate balance between seriousness and silliness that Rowling and Riordan do so well, and that others do so abysmally. It really worked here, though--I was laughing, but also cared about the characters and the terrible things they were going through. One of the main themes in this book is, as in Harry Potter, the lack of parents, and the desperate yearning for them. That bleeds through on every page. My one complaint about the book is that I did think it was too violent—I thought the violence level and description of each incidence belonged in a book for older kids. Otherwise, brilliant!
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Allison Jim Dale does the Harry Potter books too, and I love love love his narration! I'll have to check out this audio book if he does it, too.


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