My Catchphrases

Monday, 3 October 2011

MG Monday: Guest Review: The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

Title: The Emerald Atlas: The Book of Beginnings
Series: The Emerals Atlas
Author: John Stephens
Publisher: Doubleday Children's
Publication Date: 14 April 2011

Synopsis: From Back Cover

They were snatched from their beds in the dead of night, when the world was covered in snow.
Ten years on, Kate, Michael and Emma have grown up in a string of miserable orphanages, and all memories of their parents have faded. Arriving in the eerily silent Cambridge Falls, the children quickly realise there is something strange going on...
With the discovery of an old leather book, an ancient magical prophecy is set in motion which will take them on the the adventure of several lifetimes, to worlds outside their own. Only they have the power to save the town - and their own future.
Guest Review:

‘The Emerald Atlas’, is the first book of a series packed to the seams with thrills. However, there is one particular problem that limits it. There’s something decidedly difficult about placing the period the story is set. When we first meet the protagonist siblings, there’s an air of the early twentieth century, with little mention of cars or any other indicators of the modern world which works fine until nineteen years earlier we’re confronted with a woman in jeans. Wha!? Who? How did this happen? This in turn impacts on the main timeline, fifteen years into the past. Only one gun is ever mentioned and not once is there anything more advanced than swords and crossbows used in the numerous clashes throughout the story which leaves an uneasy mix of technology and magic that could’ve been avoided with a little more consistency.

It’s particularly odd as the explanation of time travel I felt was particularly well done, with simple and consistently enforced rules that avoid complicating contradictions within the timeline.

Other than that my only other complaint is perhaps the portrayal of the Dwarves who have some heavy influence from their cousins in Moria with isolationist attitudes abound and you have to be careful not to fall over with the amount of craftsmanship all over the place. That being said, it doesn’t stop them from still being enjoyable characters.

By far and away Dr. Pym is the standout character of the novel. His quirky outfit and flips between sage advice and commenting on breakfast for dinner, (Which, by the way sounds delicious. Pancakes and jam doughnuts anyone?) is fun to read and provides a light and fluffy contrast to intense action scenes. Like a delicious meringue on top of a rich chocolate sponge, with that melted chocolate centre which oozes out when you cut into it and there’s never quite enough there so you clearly require seconds to be full and I may have forgotten where I was going with this...Anyway! 

I initially found the protagonists to bear some similarity to the Baudelaire orphans of A series of unfortunate events, Protective elder sister Kate, bookworm brother Michael and impetuous little sister Emma but the trio do develop their own identity and personalities, even showing their fallibility and in some cases naivety of the events happening around them, affording the opportunity for them to earn my respect for them as well as from other characters. Despite this, there is still something about the supporting cast that I can’t put my finger on that I find more enjoyable (and that’s not solely down to Dr. Pym.)

So overall? ‘The Emerald Atlas’ is the start of a promising series. It does have its faults, but hopefully ones that will be ironed out. Nonetheless it is a good adventure with a story and character’s you’ll happily read more about. And for me at least it has raised the important question of how much one can make a metaphor out of cake.

            -Scamp, Peruser of Tomes.


  1. A fabulous review. Definitely a good start to the series. I haven't read A Series of Unfortunate Events but I am intrigued by the series now.

  2. great review, Im really interested in this series, I do think I'll try and get hold of it soon cos its been on my wishlist for ages!


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