Ten years ago, three young children were taken from their home, escaping an ancient being of darkness who wished to destroy them. Separated from their parents, the siblings are sent from one orphanage to the next: fourteen-year-old Kate, who promised her mother to take care of her younger brother and sister just before they were taken away; Michael, a twelve-year-old bookworm with a deep fondness for dwarves; and Emma, the fiery, fearless, and often irritable youngest, willing to fight just about anyone and who thinks dwarves are completely ridiculous. Remembering their mother’s promise that one day their family will be reunited again, they have refused to be adopted, getting transferred to increasingly horrible orphanages as year after year goes by.
Just when they think things can’t get any worse, they are moved once more—this time to an ancient, crumbling house in a half-forgotten town that no one seems to know anything about. While searching for the truth about the strange village, the siblings stumble across a hidden book, and are pulled into a conflict that has raged for eons. The book holds a power that some fear and some desire, and to unlock its secrets and set right the wrongs that have been done in its name, Kate, Michael, and Emma begin a journey that will take them through time itself. Along the way, they will meet monsters and sorcerers, allies and enemies—and, perhaps, find out the truth of who they really are.
Kate, Michael, and Emma are great main characters—they might have extraordinary destinies and be the key to ridding the world of evil, but they’re also believable children who argue and make mistakes, much like the protagonists of Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society. In fact, the entire cast is well done, especially the (very intriguing) villains, who we can’t wait to see more of in the rest of the trilogy. There are lots of books which include time travel, but the way John Stephens uses it doesn’t feel cliché—the various twists and side effects of altering the past are both creative and amusing. Clever, fast-paced, and fun, I would highly recommend The Emerald Atlas to readers ages nine and up.