Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
This promising first volume in debut author Stephens's Books of Beginning trilogy concerns siblings Kate, Michael, and Emma, who, when very young, were taken from their parents to protect them from unspecified forces of darkness. They have since spent 10 years in a series of unpleasant orphanages; the last of these-which, oddly enough, houses no children but themselves-is run by the eccentric Dr. Pym. While exploring their palatial yet decrepit new home tucked away in the Adirondacks, the children discover a magical green book, which transports them into the recent past. There they do battle with a beautiful witch who has terrorized and enslaved the local people in her unsuccessful search for the very book the children possess. Adventures follow, featuring murderous zombielike Screechers, time travel paradoxes, and multiple revelations about Dr. Pym. If Stephens's characterizations sometimes dip into cliche (grumpy, Scottish-ish dwarves; noble/heroic natives; an effete evil assistant), few will mind. This fast-paced, fully imagined fantasy is by turns frightening and funny, and the siblings are well-crafted and empathetic heroes. Highly enjoyable, it should find many readers. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
The first installment in the "Books of Beginning" trilogy introduces three children mysteriously plucked from their parents' home 10 years ago. Kate, Michael, and Emma have been shuffled from one miserable living situation to another and now find themselves in a curious orphanage with no other children. They discover a magical book that leads them on an astonishing time-traveling adventure. The incomparable Jim Dale reads this fantasy with great aplomb, creating wonderfully distinct voices for dwarves, witches, children, professors, and more. Heart-stopping exploits get the full treatment of Dale's vigorous narration and will have kids and adults alike clamoring for the next book, The Fire Chronicle. Luckily, it's available from Listening Library. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Following their parents' disappearance, 14-year old Kate and her younger siblings, Emma and Michael, have grown up in a series of orphanages. After moving to the dismal town of Cambridge Falls, the trio discovers a mysterious book. When studious Michael tucks a historic photo into the book, the children are transported back to an earlier time in which the town is held captive by an evil witch. Prophecies, wizards, hidden treasures, an ancient evil, and tantrum-throwing dwarves all make an appearance as Stephens works in a multitude of fantasy tropes. The quest to save the town and its children is fast-paced and engaging, with plenty of action, humor, and secrets propelling the plot. The dialogue occasionally has a choppy flow, but the humor and sibling bickering are right on target. Themes of family and responsibility, while emphasized somewhat purposefully, will easily resonate with young readers. The start of a new series, this satisfying tale wraps up in an intriguing conclusion that dangles unresolved threads for future adventures. Prepare for heavy demand.--Rutan, Lynn Copyright 2010 Booklist
Horn Book Review
Ten years after being separated from their parents, three orphans, Kate, Michael, and Emma, are sent to live at a peculiar institution in the town of Cambridge Falls. This first book in a series introduces the siblings' involvement in an epic battle between good and evil magic as they discover a powerful book called the Atlas that sends them fifteen years back in time. The three children embark on a lengthy adventure to find the emerald book again in the past, all while trying to defeat an evil Countess, save the lives of the Cambridge Falls children, and get back to the future. Narrator Dale's performance of the myriad voices of the large cast of characters is thoroughly engaging. The distinctive tones he masters for each speaker and the fluid pacing bring this book, full of rollicking action and humor, to life. The only drawback is Dale's British accent, which seems out of place in this very American story, but his skilled narration makes the time (eleven and a half hours) fly by. cynthia k. ritter (c) Copyright 2011. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
Since being inexplicably plucked from their parents' home, three childrenKate, Michael and Emma, who all ferociously resist the label "orphan"have trickled through a long line of decent to atrocious orphanages. Their adventures truly begin when they're shipped to a crumbling mansion in a childless town somewhere near Lake Champlain. A mysterious book hidden in the home's dilapidated bowels whisks them to the same spot 15 years earlier, where a glamorous witch rules. The reason for the absence of children gruesomely reveals itself, and the trio determines to help with no initial clue to their own prophetic importance.That they have a larger role to play becomes clearer as they realize they have a special relationship with the magic book, the significance of which is revealed bit by bit. In this mystical world of Children with Destiny, readers might cringe at potential similarity to a certain young wizard, but this is entirely different.Each character has such a likable voice that the elaborate story doesn't feel overcomplicated, and though the third-person-omniscient narration focuses on Kate's thoughts, brief forays into the perspectives of her siblings hint that the next two books might focus on them. Supporting characters from a heroic Native American to some very funny dwarves further enliven things. The only gripe readers might initially have is with its length, but by the end, they'll immediately wish it was longer. (Fantasy. 10-14)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.