On Christmas Eve, Kate, who is four years old, is woken from sleep by her mother, who asks her to keep her brother and sister, Michael and Emma, safe. A tall man takes the children away from their parents, and they spend the next 10 years at 12 different orphanages, the last being the Edgar Allan Poe Home for Hopeless and Incorrigible Orphans, each worse than the last.
By this time, Kate has come to anticipate the worst, and always looks like she's anticipating blows. Michael is obsessed with stories of magical creatures, and Emma, the youngest, has a fearful temper.
Their last stop is with Dr. Stanislaus Pym, the new orphanage director at Cambridge Falls, a childless town where most of the homes are dark and the people walk with their heads down. Interestingly, they are the only children at the orphanage, and when they are exploring the basement, a door mysteriously appears that leads to a lab or a study that seems to shift now and then when they are inside.
They discover an old green book with blank pages, and when Michael places an old photograph of Cambridge Falls on a page, they are transported back 15 years ago to a Cambridge Falls that still has children in it, but also has Screechers, dead creatures possessed solely by hatred for every living thing. The Screechers work for a witch called The Countess, and she has captured all of the children as hostages to force their fathers to search for "something" in the surrounding caves.
This is a wickedly entertaining story, with witches, warlocks, dwarves, and the magic of one of the three Books of Beginning - the Emerald Atlas. As the children embark on their misadventures, the situations they find themselves in and the characters and dangers they encounter will keep you turning pages. The characters are irresistible, and the humor coupled with fantasy and adventure makes this a must-read for MG fans. If you liked Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, you will love this book as well.
I, for one, can't wait for the next books in the trilogy. Harry Potter fandom, anyone?
QUOTES (from an ARC; may be different in final copy):
"I've told the head of your new orphanage - Dr. Pym, I think his name was, yes, Dr. Stanislaus Pym - that you would all probably grow up to be criminals and murderers, and he said that was exactly the type he was looking for."
"He's a bit too proud of his whiskers, but he's a handsome beast for all that. We'll have an affair shortly, though it won't end well." She frowned theatrically. "Alexei will insist on bragging about it at his club, and I'll have no choice but to slaughter him and his entire family."
"Fair enough; it's your necks. Just don't like seeing children chopped into bits and pieces when it can be avoided. Old-fashioned, I guess."
She would free Michael from his cage (she wasn't sure how yet), the two of them would get Kate away from the Secretary (she wasn't sure how she'd accomplish that either, but it would probably involve her being incredibly brave while Michael scribbled some nonsense in his notebook) . . .show more
by Julie Smith