The Fire Chronicle (The Books of Beginning, book two)
By John Stephens, read by Jim Dale
Published 2012 by Listening Library
To read my review of book one, go here.
Kate, Michael and Emma have discovered only part of what makes them different than ordinary children, but they still have much more to learn. They continue to search for their missing parents and await assistance from Dr. Pym. When something completely unexpected happens to Kate, Michael is left to take charge and watch over Emma, as the siblings carry on their fight against evil forces and their quest for the truth.
As I said in my first review, I will listen to anything Jim Dale narrates and that is the main reason I downloaded this audio instead of picking up a copy of the book (as a side note, I saw John Stephens at TLA this year and apparently by listening to Jim Dale read his story, I had decided he (Stephens) must be British - I was disappointed to discover he is not). Even with my unabashed love of Jim Dale, not every book would work in his voice. The Books of Beginning are a perfect fit, though. They are reminiscent of Harry Potter in the way that a lot of fantasy, including that for young people, is strikingly similar. This series is not a cheap imitation but a rich and imaginative new fantasy that fans of Harry Potter would certainly enjoy.
Perhaps what I loved most about the first book was the relationship between the siblings, as well as their personalities. That is still true of the second book. I adore these characters. I particularly like that Michael is the focus of this book. It would appear that each sibling is going to be the star of a different title, as it seems that each child has a strong connection with a particular Book of Beginning. I'm not sure I can pick a favorite of the three siblings, but it might be Emma, so I'm definitely looking forward to the third book. I also love the secondary characters - every character that Stephens has created practically leaps from the page and comes to life, particularly with Dale's strong voicing.
As I mentioned in my review of book one, Stephens is also gifted at the skill of pacing. The story never drags, and book two is just as exciting and action-packed as book one. Often, the middle book in a trilogy (I am assuming this is a trilogy) can be a bit of a dead weight - a good portion of a book two is usually spent providing information that will be necessary for book three and book two might not have a whole lot of self-contained plot. I don't think that's the case with this book two, though. Storylines are begun and completed within this book, as well as continuing the stories from book one and introducing new elements in preparation for book three.
Overall, I thought this was an excellent continuation of a fantastic new series. I'm looking forward to book three, and to recommending this to readers.