"There isn't time to explain. Promise me you'll look after them." "But---" "Oh, Kate, please! Just promise me!" "I...I promise."
Miss Crumley, headmistress at the Edgar Allan Poe Home for Hopeless and Incorrigible Orphans, has put them on a train to a new home that is their last chance. The location, reached by boat, is across a lake and through the fog to Cambridge Falls; a world near but not so near to ours. To their puzzlement they are the only three orphans at this new residence. In fact, they are the only children in the whole town. Caretakers for this new home are Miss Sallow, who continually speaks to them as if they are French royalty, and gentle Abraham, a taker of photographs. Mr. Stanislaus Pym, owner of this mansion on the mountain, appears and disappears with regularity.
While exploring the three children take the stairs into a wine cellar walking through a doorway that was seconds before invisible. In a room they find a book, emerald in color whose pages are blank. When a photograph given to them by Abraham is thoughtlessly placed in the book, the children are whooshed back in time.
The three initially watch in horror as the truth about what happened to Cambridge Falls is revealed to them by the presence of the cold-hearted, vile witch, The Countess, her hordes of Screechers and her equally malignant secretary, Mr. Cavendish. It becomes crystal clear that Kate, Michael and Emma are part of a master plan put into play thousands of years ago. The fate of our world and that of Cambridge Falls is in their hands.
John Stephens has created a cast of characters finely woven through the threads of time. Those elements that bring readers to fantasy, good versus evil, alternate worlds, magic, heroes and heroines, special characters such as dwarfs and a magical object, are not only present but so fully described the readers' world fades away to be replaced by the world of The Emerald Atlas. A huge draw for readers will be the snappy, sometimes humorous but constantly heartfelt dialogue between characters. Replete with gripping action, unearthly enemies, impressive allies, and the strong bonds of family, the genre of fantasy could ask for no finer representation.
There are three books and three children. Only time and the pen of John Stephens will reveal which book will claim which child next. Patience has never been one of my virtues when it comes to sequels. Like the proverbial child on a trip, until we travel with these three again, my mantra will be: "Are we there yet?"
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