25 March, 2013

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

The first thrilling book in the most exciting children's fantasy series since Harry Potter and His Dark Materials.
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 explore, 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.

Kate, Michael, and Emma have a very odd surname – P. That’s not all that is odd with them. They are sure that their parents are alive yet they have spent most of their lives in a number of orphanages all over the country. Kate, who was four years old when their parents left them, vaguely remembers their parents. The ginger hair of her father and her mother’s insistence that she takes care of her siblings are the only things that she remembers from that night when they were handed over to the first orphanage. Michael was two and Emma was one. Kate’s memories and Michael’s Book about dwarves is all they have. When the warden of their latest orphanage sends them off to an elusive place called Cambridge Falls, they expect to find yet another scrummy orphanage. Little do they know that what await them there are Dr.Pym and great adventures that will test them is the most dangerous ways.

Kate, Michael and Emma are really young but each of their personalities is well defined. I guess having to grow up in a number of orphanages has forced them to grow up early, but they haven’t lost the innocence completely. I love the way the way they hold out on the hope of being re-united with their parents even though circumstances may reflect differently. Kate being the oldest feels responsible for her siblings and as such her nature is that of a responsible caregiver first. Michael, who has very little memory of his parents, is enamored by the lives of dwarves because his only connection to his father is the book about dwarves. Emma has no memory of her parents and only knows her siblings. So the love of Kate and Michael and their opinions matter the most to her. Like all siblings, they fight and irritate each other to death, but when it matters the most, they stick up for each other.

The adventure that follows has loads of ups and downs and surprises for the siblings. But they persevere through it all. Interesting part of it all is the fact that the author has managed to keep his protagonists true to their age. Not one situation in the book made me think – ‘how could a kid manage this?’ Of course they had help when they needed the most and the side characters all fit in perfectly in the story.

The thing is that I am still suffering from Harry Potter hangover and couldn’t help but compare this book to the series. Dr.Pym reminded me of Dumbledore – a powerful wizard who liked his secrets. Gabriel, reminded me of the caring giant Hagrid – of course anybody would probably seem like a giant beside the young Emma. But I know it isn’t fair to this book which actually has the capacity to hold its own torch. A brand new fantasy world where there are ‘normal human’, witches and wizards and dwarves dwelling. There is an antagonist – the Dire Magnus, who can hold his own. 

It’s a fun adventure to undertake for a ride along with some really loveable characters.

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