The Emerald Atlas author John Stephens has a Hollywood background, so it’s not surprising that his debut novel feels like a movie in the making, with elements that recall the Harry Potter series and other kid-friendly fantasy epics. It’s to Stephens’ credit, though, that Atlas never comes off like a cash-in or a cheap imitation: It has its own fully realized world and compelling characters, and the familiar aspects of the story serve mainly to place it in an honorable tradition.
The set-up is easily relatable and recognizable: A trio of siblings (Kate, Michael, and Emma) have been left to the fates after the disappearance of their parents, bounced from one comically horrific orphanage to the next. Their latest home, however, is somewhat different: It’s a mystical town that hides some magical secrets, and soon the kids have discovered a mysterious book that transports them back in time. There they face down an evil witch who is holding the town’s residents hostage. Wizards, dwarves, and ancient prophecies all come into play in a story that takes advantage of plenty of well-worn genre tropes.
Narrator Jim Dale handles it all masterfully, with a warm and inviting tone and some highly entertaining voices for the colorful supporting characters. Some of it might be a little too colorful, though, as Dale’s animated voice acting can become a little distracting. Still, he neatly delineates the various players in Stephens’ grand tapestry, and enhances the suspense of the various moments of peril. The book ends, naturally, with the set-up for the next installment of a planned trilogy, but it’s a satisfying enough story on its own. We can only hope for the same for the inevitable movie version. Josh Bell
Kate, Michael, and Emma have been in one orphanage after another for the last 10 years, passed along like lost baggage.
Yet these unwanted children are more remarkable than they could possibly imagine. Ripped from their parents as babies, they are being protected from a horrible evil of devastating power, an evil they know nothing about.
Before long, Kate, Michael, and Emma are on a journey to dangerous and secret corners of the world...a journey of allies and enemies, of magic and mayhem. And - if an ancient prophesy is correct - what they do can change history, and it is up to them to set things right.
The Emerald Atlas brims with humor and action as it charts Kate, Michael, and Emma's extraordinary adventures through an unforgettable, enchanted world.
©2011 John Stephens (P)2011 Listening Library
If you love Rowling, Tolkien and Lewis, you will love this book. A fast paced, well written novel about three children and their nail biting fight against evil. Although maybe not incredibly original, this book has all the earmarks for a run away hit: an evil witch, a mysterious book, good hearted orphans, an absent-minded wizard and of course, terrifying creatures that seem unstoppable. As a testament to how addicting this book is, I started listening to it Monday morning and finished Thursday morning. And I must rave about the narration- Jim Dale could make a book about the history of dimes interesting and he does not disappoint here. The only odd thing is the book takes place in America yet all of the characters have British accents (very well done thanks to Mr. Dale but British none the less). You do get over that, but it's a little weird. All in all an excellent book- I predict this series will be a wild success.
Excellent book by a talented author brought to life by an excellent narrator! A pleasure to find a book that is exciting, involving and fun yet appropriate for the whole family. We are very excited about the coming books and wish Mr. Stephens would hurry up!
This book brought me into another world, and kept me excited throughout. I actually listened to this Book at work, while doing my price changing work while my store is closed. Every time i got off work, i hated having to stop at that chapter and wait till next week to listen to more. I didn't want to listen to it while i was off, because then i would have nothing left to listen to at work, and hanging tags all night long gets really boring if you don't have something good to listen to. It took me 3 work days to finish this book, but when i was done i was really wanting more.
I am very much looking forward to the next book in the trilogy. This book is very well written and exciting throughout. It is filled with emotion as well. It really takes you into their world and lets you feel what the 3 main characters feel. At times, i felt like i was there with them and traveling on their journey with them. When writing reviews i worry to much about giving away to much information about the book, so i generally don't give to much length about what happens in the book.
So, to sum it up, these 3 kids are on a journey of fate, which they are not informed of. They find themselves separated at times and are forced to continue on their journey without their siblings and continue their search for the emerald atlas, while trying to keep it out of the oppositions hands at the same time. The sibling squabbling between the younger 2 siblings brings much comic relief at times to lighten the mood.
I really enjoyed listening to this book, and Jim Dale did another fantastic job in narrating as he usually does.
What an awesome book -- whole family (7 and 10 year old daughters, my wife and I) enjoyed thoroughly -- you know it a great book when after you've driven 5 hours and are at your destination - the girls say - awww can't we keep driving... :)
Eagerly await next book in the series.
I listen to lots of children's stories since I have toddlers and most adult books that I tend to listen to are not appropriate for little ears. I wasn't a fan of the defensive/ sometimes bratty attitudes of the main characters and it took me awhile to become more interested in the story. I can't say that I ever truly "got into" the book. However, it wasn't so bad that I won't listen to the next books in the series. This story didn't hold my attention as well as Peter and the Starcatchers, Harry Potter or the Bartimeaus trilogy. But it did pass car time.
I bought this book as it was highlighted as an editor's pick, hoping it would translate well to the adult audience. It did not. That being said, this book has some great adventure for kids in it, would recommend for ages 8-12-though some of the chase scenes, like when the characters were chased by wolves may be pretty intense for the younger end of that range,
Narration was also an issue with me. The narrator, who did a wonderful job in Peter and the Starcatchers, where the main characters are a group of boys in England, evidently does a lousy job with female characters. In this book, two of the three main characters are girls, and narration for the girls was painful. The voices sounded stuck up and bored, like a kid imitating their older sister, and I kept on imagining how my impression of the book might have been different with perhaps a paired narration with one of the fantastic female narrators I've heard on audible books.
But having a British narrator for a book set in the US is really, really weird. Felt like they were a little too desperate to try and capture some of the magic of the Harry Potter books.
A grudging 3 stars for me because it was so heavily and obviously influenced by The Hobbit, The Narnia series, Lemony Snicket and Harry Potter etc that it became distracting and annoying to me. My 13 year old son felt the same as me but my daughter (8) couldn't get enough of it. She would give it 5 stars so it worked well as a read aloud to an 8yr old who hasn't read any of the above mentioned books except for Narnia.
I know it is almost sacrilege to say anything negative about Jim Dale but I'm going for it anyway. As a Harry Potter narrator he is brilliant, but he reads this book in EXACTLY the same way as HP. The Emerald Atlas is set not in England, but America. Baltimore I believe, but I may be wrong. However every character in The Emerald Atlas bizarrely has a quirky English accent, and uses English colloquialisms like "a potty old lady" and such,
(okay that part isn't Jim Dale's fault but I'm blaming him anyway), and all of the annoying dwarfs have cartoony Scottish accents. Being Scottish myself I was further annoyed by this.
This is a good book, read by the wrong narrator. Stephens wrote a good story with strong emotional appeal. The connections the characters have with each other are well thought out and accessible. However, I so strongly disliked his female voices, I had to stop the audiobook and buy the paper copy to scrub my mind of his annoying, airy, oh-so-bored intonation - ESPECIALLY his Kate-voice. And what's with the Brit accent throughout? And the Scottish dwarves? In Baltimore and Massachusetts? Using this narrator made the Potter/Tolkien derivations that much more pronounced.
So, overall, I liked the story (paper copy, not audiobook). Yes, it derived a lot of its themes from the overworked children's fantasy genre, but I enjoyed meeting a character who finds elves annoying and silly (yeah, Michael!)
Immigration lawyer in Kansas City. I like Character driven dramas, fantasy (monsters, magic and witches oh my!) and coming of age stories. Favs include: The Book Thief, The Game of Throne series, Harry Potter Series, Dresden Files, Nightside series, anything by Neil Gaimen, 100 Years of Solitude.
Another fantastic story of hero kids overcoming great odds and discovering that they are extraordinary, after a life of being an outcast. Love stories like this. Another creative and innovative story that kept me listening.
And the narrator is Jim Dale, what more needs to be said. Brilliant beyond what words can describe. he makes each and every character unique and alive. I can't wait to listen to the next book.
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