Whatever review I read positioned this book a possibility for “the next Harry Potter,” something no one should probably ever do, because how can anything be the next Harry Potter? It’ll be hard for anything ever to compare with over $500mil in book sales, and well over a billion dollars for the movie franchise. Plus, from a storytelling standpoint, it’s a very tall order for anyone to live up to the complete world building and beloved characters created by JK Rowling. So, unreasonable expectations aside, what does John Stephens give us in book one of his Books of Beginning trilogy?
He gives us a trio of siblings, Kate, Michael and Emma, whose parents disappeared 10 years before we meet them. Since then, they’ve skipped from orphanage to orphanage. Kate is the only one who remembers them, and she’s the leader and the one who keeps her two younger siblings in line. Michael is the middle child, and unlike a typical middle child, is nerdy, wears glasses and obsesses with dwarves. Baby sister Emma is the spitfire, ready to take on everyone around her. The trio are unable to get themselves adopted by a swan-obsessed rich woman, so they are sent to an orphanage in a town no one’s ever heard of.
There, the orphanage appears to be abandoned except for a cranky, old cook/housekeeper and a lanky man of all work. Then they find the proprietor Dr. Pym’s old study, or something, in the basement of the house. In the study, they find an old book with blank pages. Touching an old photograph to a page of the book transports them through time to when the old house was inhabited by an evil countess who has taken the children of the village captive, forcing their fathers to dig in the mines under the town and leaving the mothers alone.
Aside from what feel like flat (or at least unexplained so far) secondary characters, it’s an interesting story and I’ll be interested to see where Stephens takes the next two books in the trilogy. Probably not the next Harry Potter, but enjoyable anyway.