Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Emerald Atlas and The Fire Chronicle by John Stevens

The Emerald Atlas and The Fire Chronicle are the first two books in a juvenile fantasy series by John Stevens. I originally read The Emerald Atlas over a year ago, pre-publication, from an advance copy. Here's a link to my full review of that book. Basically, I liked it, but acknowledged that it has a few issues.

Which is pretty much how I feel about The Fire Chronicle. In this book, Kate, Michael, and Emma find themselves in danger once again from the Dire Magus. Early in the story, Kate is separated from her two younger siblings. She spends most of the book trapped in another time, and there she learns more about the Dire Magus in her quest to return to her family. Meanwhile, Michael is feeling the pressure of being the oldest sibling, especially since Emma feels no compunction about ignoring his opnion and doing her own thing when it suits her. Michael and Emma, along with Dr. Pym, set out on a quest to find another of the Books of Beginning, and of course they will meet up with dangers that they couldn't have imagined as they follow a trail of clues to South America and Antarctica.

I enjoyed this book about as much as the first one. It's not particularly distinguished, but it certainly fills a niche in a popular market, and kids who love fantasy will devour this series. Its adherence to the tropes of the genre is, in some cases, its downfall. For instance, even more in this book than in the first book, Dr. Pym upholds the Wise Old Wizard stereotype. In another recent read, "Who Could That Be at This Hour?", Lemony Snicket remarks that books like this one always have a wizard who is less helpful than he could be, and that is certainly the case here. It's obvious to the reader that Pym knows a great deal about the childrens' destiny, but for some reason he's dispensing that information on a need-to-know basis, and he's the one who gets to decide who needs to know what.

On the other hand, the kids' characters are well-written, and Michael, in particular, got some good character development in this book. I can't help liking feisty Emma, and one particular part of Kate's storyline sets up interesting possibilities for the third book. Readers may want to know that The Fire Chronicle does end with a cliffhanger, so if that bothers you, hold off until the third book is published.

(The Emerald Atlas reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher; The Fire Chronicle reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

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