John Stephens’ aptly-titled new fantasy trilogy begins auspiciously with a nimble, fast-paced tale of three siblings. Kate, Michael, and Emma have suffered through ten years of odious orphanage “care”; now they have slipped into the care of the eccentric, disturbingly mysterious Dr. Pym. While exploring their new home, the children discover a magical green book. With that discovery, a decade of tedium dissolves into cascades of dangerous time travel adventures and struggles with a beautiful witch and decidedly less attractive zombielike Screechers. High early reader marks for strong characterization and battle scenes.
I’m not feeling very inspired to write this review. I don’t know if it’s because I’m just not in the mood, or because the book failed to inspire me. Here’s the thing though. I don’t have a lot of criticisms, but it just didn’t do a whole lot for me. One of the things I look for most in books that I am reading is something, anything in the writing that evokes an emotion in me. That didn’t really happen here. I read for pure enjoyment; I read to get completely lost in the story.
The Emerald Atlas was well written however. I did really enjoy the story and the creativity behind the writing. I really enjoyed the scenes with the dwarves. It’s a children’s book so I don’t expect the characterizations to get very deep, but I actually felt fairly connected to the characters here. Emma was my favorite by far and I enjoyed her relationship and attachment to Gabriel.
I don’t usually “do” time-travel books. I had no idea this was a time-travel book before I started it. Had I known, I probably wouldn’t have read it, but I still enjoyed it. I just thought that certain parts of the book were unnecessarily confusing. And if it was confusing for me as an adult, imagine how it would be for a child. Not to mention, I have a hard time suspending disbelief for time-travel plots. But that’s not the author’s fault. It’s just a personal preference for me.
The action was great and a lot happened. I thought the book was well-paced, but the one thing I didn’t care for was the voice. And I’ve been noticing this in a lot of middle-grade books lately. Why do the authors feel the need to talk down to their readers? Just like a lot of others this one was written with an air of “I’m much more intelligent than you, so listen to what I have to say.” I really find that to be annoying. I’m sure most children wouldn’t even notice it, but I do. A lot. I never felt that way with Harry Potter. Not with Fablehaven either. Just because one is a child, they do not need to be talked down to. I really dislike that and it makes a book less enjoyable for me.
I did like the action though, the setting was kind of cool, and I like where the series is going. So I will probably read the next book. It was better than most middle-grade books I have read lately. I guess I am just looking for more. It didn’t wow me enough. Hopefully that will happen with the next book.