What You Need to Know:|
• A sometimes frightening but always thrilling fantasy about three siblings who travel through time.
• The Emerald Atlas, John Stephens first novel, is the beginning of a planned trilogy.
• John Stephens previously worked in television as an executive producer of Gossip Girls and a writer for Gilmore Girls
and The O.C.
• There are a few very violent scenes, like one describing a man being sliced in two.
• There is a lot of fighting, but generally with knives and swords (no guns), and those who are injured or killed
are mostly creatures of fantasy.
• This book should appeal to both boys and girls.
Read this one before the movie comes out! Okay, there’s no movie deal yet, but I’m pretty sure there will be. Almost every line of dialogue and each word describing the characters and settings, feels ready for the big screen. Stephens brings a fantasy world to life, filled with wizards, witches, dwarves and evil creatures. Yes, orphans, good versus evil, a relentless enemy, and the promise of ultimate power, are familiar concepts, but if your reader has zipped through The Golden Compass, The Chronicles of Narnia, Lemony Snicket and Harry Potter, and you’re searching for something to fill that void, then this book fits the bill. It may not fill those shoes completely, but it does give the fantasy reader what they like.
Readers are immediately drawn into the story as Kate, Michael, and Emma, chased by unnatural cloaked beings, are spirited away to an orphanage while their parents slip mysteriously into the night. Bounced from orphanage to orphanage with only the letter “P” as their last name, the children (ages 11 to 14) learn to rely on themselves and look out for each other. When they discover a book that takes them back in time, they embark on an enlightening adventure filled with magic and mystery. They come to understand their past, and learn that their destiny is intertwined with the fate of the world. They fight fierce battles against daunting enemies and although each child shows weakness at times, they overcome their fears, and demonstrate bravery and determination.
The story is filled with frightening characters like the spine-chilling Countess who imprisons a group of children, claiming to have a blade at each of their throats. There is also a battalion of horrifying “screechers” who have worms coming from their ribs and whose screams bring the children to their knees. I think the fear factor goes down as the book moves along, although maybe I just became numb to it after awhile. Mixed in with the violence are typical sibling conflicts, moments of forgiveness, realizations about the value of love and family, and even a bit of humor. It can definitely get confusing as the story moves between time periods and characters, but I do think that Stephens took that into account and tried to include reminders and summaries at varying points throughout the story. My favorite line is the Countess' response when asked what happened to the ancient powerful wizards. She replies, “What happens to every great civilization. Convinced they were the most enlightened society on earth, they grew decadent and soft...and fell apart.” These are words our children should remember!
2011, 432 pages
Adventure, Character/Values, Fantasy, Magic, Overcoming Fears, Siblings, Self-Awareness/Discovery
• Would you like to travel through time? Would you rather visit the past or the future?
• Why does Kate feel such a huge responsibility for her siblings?
• How do you treat your siblings? Do you watch out for them?
• Do you think Kate, Michael and Emma are brave? Can you describe a situation where you had to be brave?
• Which of the siblings is most like you? Why?
• Would you be willing to sacrifice your family in order to go on a great adventure?
• In what ways is this story about good versus evil?
• Why does Emma feel a special bond with Gabriel?
• Each of the siblings has strengths and weaknesses. Can you give examples of each?
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