Sunday 1 May 2011

The Emerald Atlas

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens (Random House)
HB RRP $24.95
ISBN 978-0-8575-3019-6  
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

The Emerald Atlas is a novel that will take younger readers on a magical adventure. Kate, Michael and Emma are orphans who know that they have parents. But they’re not sure when they’ll come back and are dying for answers.

They keep moving between orphanages and end up in the secluded town of Cambridge Falls. They’re drawn to the Emerald Atlas, a special book that contains many of the wizards’ secrets. One of the powers is placing photographs into the book and travelling to the time of when the photograph was taken.

The kids test this out and unwittingly fall into a trap. They’re chased by an evil countess who wants the book at all costs. The kids become determined to save the townsfolk who are under the Countess’s rule.

Stephens knows what fantasy fans want in a good story. You can see the influences of other fantasy series shine through in this story. There are many quirky characters that readers will love and hate. Gabriel is a tough and inspirational warrior. Hamish is a terrible and selfish dwarf who torments the kids. My personal favourite is the secretary, the Countess’s second in charge. The enemies here are truly frightening and no pushovers here.  

A friendly wizard Dr Pym guides the kids, especially the oldest girl Kate, who shows true grit. The kids share a strong family bond that is tested throughout. They all make mistakes but redeem themselves in many ways.
Kids are going to really enjoy this world of magic and the thrilling climax sets up the trilogy nicely. Highly recommended for ages 10 and up.    

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