Wednesday 8 June 2011

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

Pages - 417

Published by Doubleday, an imprint of Random House Children's Books in 2011
Book kindly sent by publisher for an honest review.

The girl was shaken awake. Her mother was leaning over her. 
'Kate'- her voice was low and urgent - 'listen very closely. I need you to do something for me. I need you to keep your brother and sister safe. Do you understand? I need you to keep Michael and Emma safe.'

The children don't remember much about their parents. All they know is that they were snatched away in the middle of the night. Ten years have since passed and all the children have done is be moved from one children's home to another. When they arrive at Cambridge Falls, they realise that this children's home is extremely different and something strange is definitely going on.

The children discover an old leather book which holds the key to an ancient magical prophecy that takes them  on an unpredictable adventure. The lives of the residents of Cambridge Falls are at risk, as well as the town itself. Can the children change the course of history?

This is one of those books that is going to become a rather popular series which I can envisage being made into a series of films. It is an epic fantasy that  leads you through a maze of difficulties to reach the end. As you reach the last page, you are left knowing that there is so much more waiting to come. If you enjoy Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Apprentice, then this series will appeal to you. This is a hefty read with  quite a dark atmosphere to it, including some rather gory scenes. 

The book reminded me of a ride on a water chute, where you leisurely wind through the valleys, slowly making your way upwards without realising it, taking in the new world that is being set up surrounding you, to reach the top about three quarters of the way through the book and come down in an almighty whoosh, leaving you exhilarated and exhausted by the end and ready to take the journey all over again. 

The three main children of the book were very entertaining and I loved to see the typical sibling rivalry and banter occurring between Emma and Michael. I felt like I was watching my own children and wanted to  reprimand them and give them time out. Dr Pym is an interesting character, who left me unsure of his true feelings. I couldn't quite work out whether he was good or bad.  I am not convinced we haven't read the full story on him yet and we might be surprised to find he isn't as lovely as he comes across.

I found the time travel aspect of this book quite breathtaking and original. John Stephen's made his time travelling methods appear believable to the reader.  The book contains quite a lot of flashbacks, which help to bring the story up to day and enlighten us on where the children originally came from. With each flashback, a layer of the story is peeled back to reveal another previously unknown element. 

I do have a couple of little gripes about the book. I did feel it could have been shortened a little to make the drama more punchy; I  found myself wanting to speed the action up a little. I would have also liked to see a little more depth within some of the secondary characters. However, there is a huge cast of players within the book, so I imagine it would be difficult to make them all in depth.  

On the whole, this book is a fantastic read with a breathtaking new world  built in it and a whole new method of time travel revealed. A brilliant storyline which has left me looking forward to the continuing journey. 


  1. I know a ten year old who would love this, she's a good reader, would it be suitable for her age?
    Sounds like it'd make a great movie!

  2. Teddyree - If she is a strong reader then yes. The writing isn't difficult, it is a just a big book!

  3. Sounds like a very promising series!

  4. I am looking forward to this adventure. Fab review as always :D

  5. This book has been getting a lot of buzz in the US so I'm glad to see it's worth reading.

  6. sounds good :) I wish I had more to say but the heat has melted my poor brain

  7. Niece #2 (almost 13) has just finished reading this and made almost the same comments as yourself.

  8. I like your water chute analogy. Terrific review, Vivienne!

  9. I want to read this one, it was mentioned as "an instant classic" last year, I'm not sure if that's true but it does sound good.

    It was released in Norway a short while ago. I wonder if this might be something for our soon to be thirteen year old nephew.

  10. I loved this one! I agree - the time travel aspect was well done.

  11. Wow. You compared the book to a ride on a water chute :) First, I find the visual of that just fantastic and second, it makes the book sound wonderful! I have the nearish to the top of my TBR pile, so I hope i'm just as excited about the story and the characters!

  12. you know, I've been walking past this book for a few weeks and not bothering picking it up but I think I have to now! I don't know why but the cover put me off... I shouldn't judge but now Ive read your review, I think I need to read it!

  13. I think I'm going to give this one a try too. Sounds so good and the story is mighty interesting.


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