Titles: The Emerald Atlas, The Fire Chronicle, The Black Reckoning
Author: John Stephens
Publisher: 2011, Alfred A. Knopf (The Emerald Atlas) 2012, Knopf Books for Young Readers (The Fire Chronicle) 2015, Random House (The Black Reckoning)
Three Word Description: Wonderful, Nostalgic, Heartbreaking
“So how was the books?”
Oh dear, I got into this series solely because I wanted something cute and relaxing (plus I had heard it compared to Narnia). Spoiler alert: it is not relaxing. At all. I got so emotionally invested that I won’t be able to read another book for awhile to be able to judge it justly.
The Emerald Atlas is the first book in The Books Of Beginning – trilogy by John Stephens. It follows the three siblings, Kate, Michael and Emma who as small children was left at an orphanage. When they arrive at a strange town and a strange orphanage, without any orphans, the kids suspect there’s something very wrong with the place. When they find a strange book, something very strange happens…
The book will promise you something along with Narnia and His Dark Materials, and speaking from someone who’ve actually read the books, I can confirm that even though it may not be the same, it is actually pretty similar in some ways but especially in “spirit”. You can’t expect to get the same from different books, but I do think you’ll like The Books of Beginning if you liked the magic and adventure of Narnia and the world, characters, and heartbreak of His Dark Materials.
Right, let’s start to go through a breakdown of the good and bad parts of the series;
I absolutely loved the characters and their relationships. The three siblings are officially one of my new favorite siblings in literature. I found their respective personalities actually very understandable and believable. Stephens understands how our environment and relationships affect us, for better or worse, and the siblings all went through very good character developments. Each book focuses on the character development of one of the siblings, so if you like character driven stories, you’ll no doubt like these. But at the same time, they don’t ignore the developments of the other siblings or characters that may not be entirely the focus.
Seeing as we’re talking about characters and relationships, I must warn you about a thing as I will not be held responsible for any consequences. See, the first book is great and all, but it’s all fun and games until the second, The Fire Chronicle, which will rip your heart out, stomp on it, tear it to pieces and then stare you down as they crumble to the ground. There are several reasons why, so of course, I won’t spoil them. But the thing about this book, and the next, that I loved (and was heartbreaking), was that you realize how young the siblings actually are. Sometimes I feel like both middle-grade and Young Adult authors forget that they’re writing about kids and teens, not “under-developed” adults that need some character development. Being forced to grow-up is terrifying, especially when the fate of the whole world is your responsibility…
As for the plot, I really liked how Stephens built up that mystical feel that you just love about “real world meets fantasy world” – books before things starts to make sense. I had hardly read anything about the books before I started them, so I had no idea as to what was supposed to happen. And that’s honestly the best, books should give out as minimal information as possible. The plots are heavily ‘adventure-driven’, except being character driven, each book has this kind of quest(s) they have to go on, like in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson – books. A problem though I had when reading the books was, even though it was the best to use the children’s different p.o.v.’s, it did bug me at times as “BAM! something happens at the end of the chapter! I must read the next to know what follows!” And then it switches perspective to someone else and the whole time you just want to go back to the other person’s narrative instead of focusing on the one currently telling the story.
Otherwise, each book has a new and fresh plot so none of the books feel repetitive, which I’m really grateful for. As I’ve probably already stated, the second book really surprised me with where it was going/ended, I loved it, but I loved it in the same way you always love being deeply emotionally wounded by books and other types of fiction. You know guys, we might as well just ask the authors to just punch is the face.
But you know another bonus point for this series? It made me actually really, like really care for a certain ship. Typically I am that person that rolls my eyes at “intimite” moments, or just outright don’t care. I want to go back to the relevant plot, please. Though in here it actually was relevant to the plot. And you know what that means – it ain’t gonna be easy…
But to summarize, I absolutely loved this fantasy-adventure series and it has so many good qualities. I do not know if this series is for everyone, but that’s honestly true to every book out there. If you have no problems with reading middle-grade or Young Adult literature, I’d dare bet on that you’ll at least like it.