Summary: Kate, Michael, and Emma have grown up in a series of orphanages. When they are transferred to the mysterious orphanage at Cambridge Falls, they discover a magical book which transports them back in time to a struggle between the local people and an evil witch. At first the three only want to return home, but they soon realize the fate of the children of Cambridge Falls rests in their hands. The first of the Books of Beginning.
Review: The Emerald Atlas contains many standards elements of fantasy: a prophecy, a witch, a warrior, magical creatures, and magical objects. The story, however, feels completely fresh. Stephens writes with confidence and skill, keeping the plot moving at a steady pace that never feels forced or rushed. The action is strong, unrolling before the reader almost like scenes from a movie. However, Stephens never loses sight of his characters in the storyline. Kate, Michael, and Emma are likable protagonists, containing no extraordinary skill, but possessing a lot of heart. Their very ordinariness grounds the readers as they encounter a host of stranger and magical characters, ranging from the eccentric magician to the beautiful but deadly witch; readers can experience the wonder along with the children. Humor keeps the book lighthearted even as the danger mounts, as is appropriate for a book geared toward younger readers. Best of all, however, the book, though the first in a series, ends on a conclusive note, giving readers the sense of closure so often lacking when sequels are involved.