Monday, December 20, 2010

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

genre: middle grade
unsolicited from publisher - thanks!

What do you get if you throw together The Series of Unfortunate Events, The Lord of the Rings, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and a little bit of Harry Potter type magic? You get this book, an adventure story, a fantasy story - a story of orphans and wizards, hidden books and midnight chases.

One winter night, four year old Kate and her two siblings are separated from their parents for a secret purpose - and while she wants to believe they are still alive, ten years of orphanage swapping begins to wear on her faith. When the three children are taken to their newest home, it's apparent before they even arrive that things are not quite what they seem and soon they are on an adventure that will change their lives - and possibly save the world from evil.

There is a lot about this story that I liked - the believable camaraderie of the siblings, the Tolkien-like storyline and a few of the minor characters are just FUNNY with their sarcasm and irritation. For a middle-grade fantasy, I'd say it's a fine work, since I can't think of anything I'd change (except maybe tighten it up and shorten it a little, but I think that's me as an adult reader talking - for a younger audience the explanations and timing might be just right). The ending certainly left you knowing at least two more books are on their way, with some good and interesting questions left unanswered and some clear adventures yet to come.

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