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The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens
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The Emerald Atlas (2011)

by John Stephens

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Books of Beginning (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 78 (next | show all)
There were a lot of things that I liked in this novel. It's a well written book with a complex plot that contains many entwining threads, yet never feels too difficult for young readers to grasp. It's also fast paced and offers some very exciting scenes, although it occasionally fails to deliver on the action (for a book about magic, it is actually used surprisingly sparingly). It also has a rather unique and interesting time travel mechanic which works very well, avoiding paradoxes and suiting the tone of the story perfectly.

Yet the novel really does take too much from other, more popular works. You can clearly see the influences of Tolkien, Lewis, Pullman and even Snicket on this story. Not in the content (it never rips off these works to the degree of a Harry Potter clone like Charlie Bone), but the general style of writing, themes and tone. Three children discover that they are part of an ancient magical prophecy which concerns finding magical objects before an evil dark lord can use them to destroy the world? It’s been done a million times before. For all the story’s good points, its lack of originality made it incredibly forgettable.

However, I will commend it on its cast. The Emerald Atlas had a principle cast that were all well developed and likable and an incredibly colourful secondary cast. Kate, Michael and Emma each spoke with their own unique voice and acted believably as siblings – fighting and making mistakes but ultimately caring about each other. I had absolutely no issues with the way that Kate and Michael were presented but Emma did get on my nerves a little. Her thing was that she was angry all the time yet sometimes this seemed inappropriate. Like the time when she almost joined a lynch mob to kill Michael. Or the time when she refused to hide and alerted an enemy sentry to the position of a spy just because she didn’t like being told what to do. I know she’s only young but at times I just wanted to tell her to stop being so stupid. She never seemed to realise that her aggressiveness just kept putting people in danger.

So, all in all, not a bad novel but a touch unoriginal. I hope that the author breaks out and finds his own unique voice in the next instalment. ( )
  ArkhamReviews | Jul 18, 2015 |
I had a hard time coming up with a star rating for this book. There's nothing wrong with it, but I just couldn't get into it. I didn't feel connected to the characters and the story didn't draw me in. It felt flat and plodding. I bet kids would like it a lot, especially as a first fantasy book. I was so excited for this series and I really wanted this book to be good. Turns out, it just wasn't for me. ( )
  ladonna37 | Apr 13, 2015 |
Description: Kate, Michael, and Emma have been in one orphanage after another for the last ten 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.

Until now.

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.

Thoughts: This book never managed to really grab me. Mostly, I think, because it doesn't ever manage to really differentiate itself from so much of children's fiction these days: there are orphans, they are mistreated by people who should take care of them, they go on a journey and find out that their lives are not what they expected. It's not that it's bad... it's just getting a little stale for me. I almost crave a magical fantasy for tweens and teens that features a kid who has wonderful, loving parents YET still gets an adventure. Seems like ever since Cinderella, the only story people can write is kids in terrible, parentless and loveless situations.

Anyway, other than that the book is fine. The kids are mostly likeable. The writing style is fine. The plot is a little fiddly in a couple places, but still fundamentally fine. The set up for the other books in the series is quite clear and easy to follow.

What really confuses me, however, is that this was an Amazon Best Book of the month and it's being compared to His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. Now, that's one of my favorite series and this doesn't come close. And I don't get the hype. I wouldn't rule out reading the sequels but they aren't rushing to the top of my TBR list.

Maybe I'm just too old for this one. Or too saturated in this kind of teen lit. I don't know. I just know that I'm pretty much left feeling this one was fine, nothing more.

http://www.librarything.com/topic/134084#3317926 ( )
  leahbird | Jan 13, 2015 |
Kate, Michael and Emma have a special destiny and when their young lives become imperiled they are sent away to an orphanage unknowing what the future holds for them. 10 years later after having being sent from orphanage to orphanage, they arrive in Cambridge Falls and their adventures begin.

Kate has a unique connection to the "Emerald Atlas" which allows her to time travel. The children use this special ability to go back in time to save a town and its people.

Magic, time traveling, dwarfs, hidden tunnels and more made this book a thoroughly entertaining experience and had me running to the bookstore for the next in the series. ( )
  cyderry | Dec 8, 2014 |
The first in a series of 3 about the Books of the Beginning, in which orphans Kate, Michael and Emma must travel back in time using the Atlas, to save these books from forces of evil, the Countess and Dire Magnus.
  lrubin75 | Dec 7, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 78 (next | show all)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Stephensprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dale, JimNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foster, JonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375868704, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2011: With a timeless writing style that invokes thoughts of children’s fantasy classics such as Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, author John Stephens weaves a gripping tale of mystery and magic into The Emerald Atlas. His enchanting prose and spot-on wit can only be described as both hip (Stephens was previously the executive producer of Gossip Girls) and Dickensian, a delightful combination that will both engage young readers with its relatable nature and fascinate them with its aberrant charm. If Stephens's comic finesse and archetypal writing style aren’t enough to engage young readers, they will no doubt be captivated by the plot. Stephens's complex formula for time travel and fascinating explanation for the disappearance of the magical realm is so convincing that readers might begin to believe that there is, in fact, far more to the world than meets the eye. Thought-provoking and enchanting, The Emerald Atlas has the makings of a children’s classic. --Jacqueline Segall

Amazon-Exclusive Q&A with Author John Stephens
John StephensAmazon: You started off in television, co-producing and writing for The Gilmore Girls and The O.C., and then moved on to be the executive producer (and occasional writer and director) for Gossip Girls. After establishing yourself in Hollywood, what inspired you to change your course and write a children's book trilogy?

John: Honestly, sometimes I ask myself that question in the reverse. How did I ever end up in Hollywood? The truth is that writing novels was my first ambition, and given my druthers when I finished grad school, I probably would’ve gone off and just written books. The only problem was that at the time I was pretty bad at it. I really kinda stunk. As it turned out, I needed another decade of learning the craft before I was ready to write a novel. And, fortunately, writing for Hollywood turns out to be a great training ground. You learn how to work on a schedule, tell a satisfying story, build character, construct scenes, you develop a feel for dramatic momentum…and you get to tool around the Warner Bros lot on a golf cart, which is kind of awesome. In fact, writing and producing television was so much fun I kind of forgot about writing books for a while. That is, till the day I read The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman and realized that all I wanted to do was write children’s fantasy novels. And luckily by then I had the skills to pull it off without embarrassing myself.

Though I do still miss cruising around the lot on golf carts.

Amazon: The whole time I was reading The Emerald Atlas, I kept thinking what a great movie it would make. Are there any plans for a film version?

John: I hope so! Wouldn’t that be awesome? Unfortunately, at present, if people are making plans, they haven’t told me about them.

Amazon: I loved the characters of Kate, Emma, and Michael. They were all so relatable. I felt as if they were kids I had met before. Were your three young heroes inspired by anyone in your life or from your childhood?

John: Kate not so much (though she does share a name with my younger sister). Her closest inspiration came from a character in the movie Not One Less by Zyang Yimou, where this young girl is put in charge of a schoolhouse in rural China, and the teacher tells her that she’ll be paid if all the children are there when he returns. Well, of course one of the kids, this little rapscallion, runs away, and she has to track him down to this big city. And the job of finding this kid in this huge city is OVERWHELMING and yet this girl is unbelievably tenacious. I just loved that sense of incredible strength in someone so young.

Emma is partly inspired from a friend of mine, a writer I worked with who can be incredibly combative and feisty, but also has an enormous heart. I love that combination of fury and vulnerability.

Michael, in many ways, was based on me. We’re both the middle brother of two sisters, studious, wear glasses, think dwarves are awesome, and have a need to document our worlds. However, like all characters, he grew away from me and became much braver and more resourceful than I could ever hope to be.

Amazon: The fantasy world in The Emerald Atlas is described in such detail that it really comes to life in the mind of the reader. What was your inspiration for the world that Kate, Emma, and Michael happen upon?

John: The inspiration was the Adirondacks of upstate New York. A few years ago, I spent a lot of time up near Lake Placid and I found the area to be really magical and just imbued with history, in particular, a romantic, turn-of-the-century, Edith Wharton-type of history that I found very appealing. British fantasy writers are surrounded by buildings, streets, and graveyards that are centuries old. Fantasy and magic seems to cling to those places. It’s a little bit harder to find that in the States, but I felt the Adirondacks had that quality in spades, as well as being near the old stomping grounds of Washington Irving, who sort of began the tradition of American fantasy I was trying to nod towards.

Amazon: You have a distinctly individual voice and plotline in The Emerald Atlas, but your writing style does invoke thoughts of some children’s fantasy classics. The beginning portion of The Emerald Atlas reminded me a little bit of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, while the main body of your work read more similarly to C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia and Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and the action scenes reminded me most of J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Which writers would you say inspired you most as an author?

John: First off, to say that my book reminds you of those writers is a HUGE compliment, so thank you. I feel very indebted to particular writers for very specific things. Among the ones you mention…from Pullman, I love the authority of his other worlds. He believes in Lyra’s world completely and he makes you believe in it. Also, his characters live at the edges of their feelings, which makes reading the books enormously exciting. From Lewis, at his best, he can convey a true sense of magic to readers, especially young readers. And though I don’t love all his books, his prose is always great. I admire so much about J.K. Rowling’s books but just to pick a couple things, she has a Dickensian affection for side characters that I also have. Also, she shares with Roald Dahl, one of my other literary heroes, a taste for the comic grotesque. I’m deeply indebted to Edith Nesbit, most particularly for her Bastable books. I love her humor, her lightness of touch and above all the interaction of her children. And finally, I’d just say Dickens for so many things, but mostly because he proved again and again that a funny book can also be moving.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:15 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Kate, Michael, and Emma have passed from one orphanage to another in the ten years since their parents disappeared to protect them, but now they learn that they have special powers, a prophesied quest to find a magical book, and a fearsome enemy.

» see all 6 descriptions

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