Review: The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

Posted 21 May, 2011 by Danny in / 3 Comments

The Emerald Atlas

by John Stephens
Publishing: April 5, 2011
Links: IndieBound
(support an independent bookseller near YOU!)
Amazon, Barnes & Noble
(available as Kindle/Nook or audiobook editions)
AudioBook downloaded from public library
Synopsis from Random House’s website

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.

Brimming with action, humor, and emotion, The Emerald Atlas is the first stage of a journey that will take Kate, Michael, and Emma to strange, dangerous lands and deep within themselves. It is the story of three children who set out to save their family, and end up having to save the world.


I heard about The Emerald Atlas from my step-mother, who is a fan of middle-grade fiction along the lines of Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. And much like those books, The Emerald Atlas has much to recommend it. Children suddenly orphaned and forced to grow up in cruel conditions. Then being whisked away to a very odd, almost mystical place. Finally, finding out that there is much more to them than they had known and that there is still so much more for them to learn about themselves, their pasts and their places in history.

The children are truly enjoyable characters. I loved that Kate so completely took on the role of mother to the younger two siblings. Not an easy task, as one might imagine, but it provided the trio a sense of stability and love and above all family, which is a powerful theme in the book. I loved that Michael, though an occasionally insufferable know it all, is flawed and has a moment that humbles him deeply. And then there’s Emma, a spit-fire of a girl with a heart of surprising depths.

I couldn’t help feeling that some parts of this tale were a bit formulaic. Dr. Pym reminded me very much of Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series (complete with snowy-white eyebrows) as did some of the later revelations in the book. Still, I enjoyed the tale, enjoyed meeting Kate, Michael and Emma and look forward to spending more time with them in the future as the next two books in the series are published. I also am hoping to see them grow a bit in age, as I really felt the process of maturing was one of the arcs I enjoyed most about the Harry Potter series.

Bottom Line

An interesting read that will have you longing for the next book to see where this series will go.

I give it 3.5 out of 5 books

I listened to the audio version of this book, narrated by Jim Dale. He has a lovely accent (British perhaps) and was excellent at portraying the myriad characters in this fantasy

I give the audio portion of this book 4 out of 5!

Final Notes

As I mentioned before, this is the first in a trilogy of books, The Books of Beginnings, and I’m interested in seeing where the next two books will take our fair hero and heroines. There’s no information out on when the second book will come out (or even what it will be called) but there’s a wealth of images from the book and even the great animated book trailer below:

And….of course, this book is one of our audiobook reviews, so I’ll take this opportunity to remind you about our year-long challenge which started earlier this year:

If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so here! All year long, we’ll be doing reviews of audiobooks we listen to and hosting monthly give-aways for anyone who joins the challenge and posts their audiobook reviews in our Mr. Linky post (you can find January’s post here). This month’s give-away is new earbuds and a portable speaker:

So definitely check that out. Just click on the challenge icon above and you’ll be taken to the post that gives you all the information you need.

Now go and get lost…in a book!

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3 Responses to “Review: The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens”

  1. I just read this as well and my review will go up this week. I felt the first half was slow, and like you said, formulaic, but the second half was AWESOME! I really loved it so much that I gave it 4 stars. I think it would be a fun read for a car trip to listen to on audio. I'll have to remember that next time we go somewhere.

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