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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

Hi there insatiable readers!
How goes your week thus far?  Good I hope.  Mine...ehhh, could be better, could be worse.  The short of it would be I'm hanging in there.


This week has been refreshing what with a little extra time to write up reviews in my usual fashion.  I'm certain not everyone is as happy about that as I since I tend to get a bit wordy when the time presents itself.. but you love me despite that, right?  ^_^  Anywho, onward to today's post....it's a doozy!

The spotlight shines today on a book that made it's debut earlier this year from the good folks over at Knopf Books for Young Readers.  If you're one of THOSE readers that shies away from reading a title because the recommended age group doesn't include your own (as in it's written for younger readers), than I have a few words of advice.....GET OVER IT. 


It may seem rude, it may seem crude...it may seem like an insult from the 80's when words like that were apparently common place ~whistles~ but it is the truth.  There are so many good, no GREAT books that while intended for such and such an age range are perfectly enjoyable to the adult psyche and I for one will not be stopped by seemingly imposed limitations (well, they would be self imposed really because publishers put that on there as a guide for parents/guardians anyway...).  That being said, I give you the fantastical work that is today's feature...intended for younger readers but an adventure YOU CAN'T MISS!  Today's book of choice is....

The Books of Beginning, Book One:
by

From the publisher...

A snowy winter's night. Three small children are chased from their home by the forces of a merciless darkness. Ten years later, Kate, Michael and Emma are no closer to the truth about what separated their family.



The answer lies with an enchanted atlas.

A short and sweet summary of the wonder that lies within the pages of this novel...but just revealing the top of the iceberg on this title.  Being the first book in a series (trilogy, technically), it could have easily fallen under the curse of the first book.  What curse?  Oh you know...that stage where book one is merely used as a vehicle to introduce everyone and everything without actually getting into the actual story...that curse.  It's not that authors that choose that particular route are unwise in their decision, it's just that we as readers are left wanting MORE than more....we're still seeking sustenance.  This book?  Oh boy...you'll be satisfied and then some....and yet by books end, STILL craving another round.  Let's jump back to the actual story...

So, we begin by meeting our lead characters, three "orphans" left on the river banks of St. Mary's Orphanage.  You might be wondering why I used quotations marks there with the word orphan...am I right?  Ah, fair readers...there is a reason for that, but one I can not divulge entirely.  Suffice it to say that while one is either an orphan or not (usually), these three fall into a new category altogether for the time being.  Ahem...getting back to that story....the children were left there to protect and hide them from those that would do them harm...and then subsequently moved from place to place to place in order to keep their location a secret. 

Landing at the Edgar Allan Poe Home for Hopeless and Incorrigible Orphans (I certainly hope there weren't any promo items with the name because WHEW try fitting that on a key chain!), Kate, Michael and little Emma try their best (sorta) to fly under the radar, when one Mrs. Lovestock (nice name) comes to see about adopting the children.  As usual, things just don't work out (she reminded me a lot of Grue {before his change} on Despicable Me with all her "no this" and "no that") and as their final option for adoption comes and goes, they are shipped out once again.  Final destination....Cambridge Falls.  Sounds picturesque, right?  WRONG.  The surrounding town is peculiar in that it lacks life, color...and children for that matter.  The new orphanage that requested their presence has exactly three orphans....THEM.  The caretakers Ms. Sallow and Abraham are certainly not your usual guardians and what of the tall, thin man that even in shadow eerily resembles a memory that Kate (the eldest) can't fully produce.  There's something amiss in this town...and the children intend to find some answers.  The mystery they uncover will not only change their circumstances but the very world they live in.

Oh the magic that is reading...how I love it so.  If a day goes by without it, I am worse for wear...know what I mean?  I must advise you on this one fair readers...once you begin this reading journey, you won't want to put it down.  Best set some time aside simply to read it straight through...and then a little more time to savor all that you've learned and yearn for the next installment.  The characters are uniquely individual and despite their brother/sister ties, each personality is strong.  This aspect of the children actually leads them on their own adventure filled paths within the book so not only is there the overall story, but smaller ones within it.  Still following me?  Good.  The growth they experience over the course of the tale makes them seem much wiser than their years and in fact they are in some ways...life or death situations will do that to you as well as dealing with a magical heritage that comes out of the blue.  Yep...this is one strong sibling trio and yet the roles given to each of them are not necessarily typical of your average story.  The youngest ends up the bravest...the middle child, somewhat devious but book smart...the eldest, self-sacrificing and true.  Apart they can stand on their own two feet but together they are a force to be reckoned with.


UK Cover
 The story itself was unique in my eyes, not the orphan portion or their being something non-earthly behind the strange happenings about, but the actual meat of the book....and the blank green book they discover on their journey.  I loved how things were revealed piece by piece....never too much nor too little at once.  The pacing was just right to allow readers the opportunity to know each character and explore each location but not overly done to where you got  lost in the explorations.  It would seem (to me at least) that the author's natural writing talents are right at home in the literary arena and I for one welcome the next installment with open hands. 

Recommended reading for 8-ish readers and up.  This is one adventure you should not ignore.  I see in some places it's being toted as the most exciting read since the infamous Harry Potter series.  The most?  That's a very tall bill to fill...but I can definitely say it ranks very high on that comparison list.  To explore this bookish world a bit more in depth, be sure to check out the dedicated website for the series where you can read an excerpt, meet the characters, watch the book trailer and so much more.  Book one is available in hardback now, so be on the lookout for it on a store shelf near you; if you prefer paperbacks, watch for its debut in early 2012.  Book two and three in the series are still unnamed at this time (darn it) but rest assured I'll be on the lookout for both...and holding a spot open on my wish list just for them.

Review copy received courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House Children's Books.  (THANKS!)  For more information on this prolific publisher, be sure to check out their site, or follow along on Twitter!

Until next time...happy reading!


2 comments:

....Petty Witter said...

A fan of children's books, I got over the suggested reading age a long time ago.

Another great review, I'm glad to read you are hanging in there.

Mary said...

I've requested this one in audio format from my library...it's supposed to be very good, and I'm pleased to read a positive review.
Mary, A Book A Day

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