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Thursday, June 04, 2015

The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens

The Fire Chronicle is the second book in a great middle grades series, The Books of Beginning.  Do not be fooled by that "middle grades" classification!  These books have a richness of character and setting that is appreciable by all ages.  The "middle grades" classification only means that it's "safe" for very young teens to enjoy alongside us adults.  :)

Even though this is the second book in a series, it could easily be read as a standalone.  Without coming across as repetitive, John Stephens gives the reader just enough info to be able to enjoy the story.  Also, this book focuses more on Michael, whereas the first book focused primarily on Kate.  If I were a betting woman, I'd put my money on the third book focusing on Emma.  After all the adventure in the first book, the siblings are definitely not anxious to "settle down" at the Edgar Allan Poe Home for Hopeless and Incorrigible Orphans.  They want to keep questing for their parents, of course!  Fate intervenes to help the kids, and soon enough the bad guys are after them and the Emerald Atlas.  Kate uses the Atlas to evade the bad guys and save her brother and sister, but then becomes trapped in late 1890s NY, NY.

To be honest, I don't remember if there were multiple POVs in the first book.  But this book has them, and it works really well.  The reader gets Kate's side of the story, where she's trapped in the past, and also Michael's point of view as he tries to save the present and future.  I felt like there were more "Michael chapters" than "Kate chapters" but it works.  And the reader still gets to keep up with Emma in the Michael chapters.  Because Michael and Kate are in different time periods, it's always very clear to the reader which character is talking.

As I mentioned, the setting is also very rich.  I love history, so I loved reading the descriptions of Kate's adventures in 1890s NY City.  I can't talk much about it without any spoilers, but do know that she meets some very interesting characters there!  There is magic woven throughout the book, but it all feels natural.  Like of course there are dwarves and elves and magicians, right?  Living among us mortals?  The setting is also very rich in Michael & Emma's storyline.  It almost felt a bit Hobbitish for a bit in the middle, which I loved.

And finally, a note on the narration.  Jim Dale is possibly one of my all-time fave narrators.  He has great tonal clarity and a slightly British accent and near-perfect cadence.  (Possibly just a hair on the slow side for me, but not bad at all.)  He did both The Emerald Atlas and The Fire Chronicle.


Tynga is a 32 years old mom of two, from Montreal, working as a lab technician in an hospital specialized in heart disease. In her free time, she enjoys reading all things Paranormal and photography.

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