Title: The Emerald Atlas
Author: John Stephens
Publisher: Listening Library, 2011 (print version available from Knopf Books for Young Readers)
Narrator: Jim Dale
Kate, Michael, and Emma have been bounced from orphanage to orphanage ever since their parents disappeared when they were small children. All they know about their former life is that their last name is P, and that their parents will be back for them someday. Ten years after that fateful Christmas Eve when the children were separated from their parents, they are kicked out of yet another orphanage to find themselves at a creepy looking mansion, supposedly an orphanage, in a town called Cambridge Falls where they are the only orphans. After some exploring, they find a book and manage to whisk themselves into the past where a beautiful and terrifying Countess has abducted all the children in the village of Cambridge Falls in order to get the men of the village to find something in the mountains she wants. Unfortunately when they try to get to the present again, the girls accidentally leave Michael behind. In order to save him, they need to go back. But once they do, they are in for much more than they bargained for—the fate of Cambridge Falls and everyone in it rests with them.
This magical adventure fantasy is a great beginning to what I hope will be a trilogy, if the hints within this book are anything to go by. Full of magical creatures, not to mention truly evil, vile villains that you really hate, each event leads to another to keep your attention and interest in the lives of these three children and their companions.
The characters themselves were well done, too. Kate feels a deep responsibility for her brother and sister since her mother told her to take care of them the night they left, and it shows throughout the story. Every decision she makes is for their sake, or the sake of someone other than herself. She is very selfless and buries her own emotions to a point, yet it's clear she desperately wants to be with her parents again.
Jim Dale does a fantastic job as the narrator. At first I was annoyed that he had an English accent, not because I don't like them, but because Kate, Michael, and Emma are American and this whole story takes place in America. But I quickly got over that, since it wasn't a huge plot point. Dale had a different voice for every character, and all of them were fantastic.
Readers who like Harry Potter will enjoy The Emerald Atlas. It's not a book that borrows plot points from that other famous series, but it has the elements of adventure, sacrifice, and magic that made the Harry Potter series so enjoyable. This book is its own entity and an original fantasy that I'll be sure to continue when the next book is released.
Disclosure: I got this audiobook from my local library.