The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens is the second book in his Books of Beginning trilogy. I enjoyed it immensely, but sadly it had two major flaws:
- It takes about half the book to really get going, with the first part of the book feeling like something of a string of coincidences designed to bring the characters to the epic conclusion
- The ending is a decided cliff-hanger. I don’t know if you know this, but I loathe cliff-hangers. When not entirely mercantile, they are frankly laziness on the part of the author. Not impressed.
That said, everything after about the 50% mark but before the last few paragraphs is amazing, and the beginning isn’t that bad; it’s just not as well-paced as the first book. A big part of my annoyance was admittedly thanks to the fact that Kate is separated from her siblings very early on, and then we hear nothing more from her for quite some time. And I really like Kate. It was nice to see Michael grow into himself, but since his growth didn’t really happen until after Kate showed up in the narrative again, the beginning felt a bit like treading water for me.
All that said, Michael’s growth and maturation in the latter half of the book was astonishingly well handled. I really wish I had been able to read this book as a child, because the core message is one that would have been very worthwhile for me (it still is, but at this point is something that I have discovered for myself previously). I wish more books featured young men like Michael.
If you read and enjoyed Emerald Atlas, I would actually recommend you hold off on this one until the third book is released. I loved the growing up that happened in this book (the characters get decidedly more nuanced by the end), but the lack of closure at the end is a major irritant that’s just going to bug you until Stephens gets the third book out the door. However, you should definitely read it (even if you wait). The journey to discover Michael’s Book of Beginning is not one you will want to miss.
The plot summary contains spoilers! Show it anyway.