The Fire Chronicle: The Books of Beginning, Book 2

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
The Fire Chronicle: The Books of Beginning, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Time-travel sequel even more fantastic than first book.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The time-traveling element in The Fire Chronicle gives kids a glimpse of New York during the 1890s as well as of the geography and wildlife of Antarctica. And the fantasy element presents classical versions of elves, dwarves, trolls, and dragons that might be fun to compare with the more Disney-type versions.

Positive Messages

Being loyal, courageous, and honorable is important, as is being trustworthy. Also, trust yourself and "live life forward" rather than looking back with regret at what might have been.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Fire Chronicle is filled with characters who are brave and loyal as well as willing to sacrifice for the good of not only their family and friends but also the rest of the world. Katherine and Michael understand the importance of trust, loyalty, and courage, and they learn that the special powers they have are within them.


The Fire Chronicle is jam-packed with fantasy battles between the good and evil powers; some are epic and pretty gory. A weapon is embedded in the head of an attacking troll, another is decapitated, half-dead screechers tear at victims, and so on. Some violence is more realistic, though not graphically described. For example, one young boy stabs his mother's attacker, and one of the main characters is shot.


Kate falls for Rafe, and he for her. They share some warm moments and an innocent kiss or two. The elf princess expresses her love for Michael, but he's not too thrilled about it. She gives him a tender kiss. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The wizard smokes a pipe.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Fire Chronicle is the second installment in the action-packed time-traveling fantasy trilogy The Books of Beginning, and it's just as good, if not better. Again, it's good vs. evil as three siblings continue their search for their parents amid a magical, sometimes scary, world of elves, dwarves, trolls, screechers, dragons, giants and, of course, wizards. The Fire Chronicle has more gory warfare and other fantasy violence, than The Emerald Atlas (a troll is decapitated, and one of the main characters is shot). But the book also has spectacular moments of heroism, unexpected twists, and humor. The complex time-travel element may confuse younger readers who tackle this book on their own. Also, the dark, sometimes nightmarish atmosphere may unsettle more impressionable readers. But all of that is exactly what will hold the unflagging interest of those ready for such an thrilling, adventurous read.

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What's the story?

The Fire Chronicle is Book 2 of John Stephen's trilogy The Books of Beginning. Book 1, The Emerald Atlas, began the adventure of the three siblings who are caught up in a world of magic, wizards, and evil creatures as they search for their missing parents. That story ends as they learn that part of their mission is to collect the three magical books and bring them together to save the world of magic. They have the first book; now to find the second. The kids are separated after escaping from yet another horrible orphanage. Kate spends most of the book time-traveling to different places to escape evil pursuers and get back to her brother and sister. Michael and Emma, meanwhile, have gone off on adventures of their own. With their wizard-mentor and his loyal protector, they head into a dangerous, mysterious world Michael has seen in his dream. Helped by elves and a dragon, pursued by screechers and trolls, they escape one danger after another in their pursuit of the book of fire. Whether Michael can learn to trust himself and take on the task of Keeper of the Chronicle is part of his struggle. While Book 1 was primarily Kate's story, Book 2 is Michael's.

Is it any good?

This book is terrific! It's as good or better than the first, and more complicated. Stephens is a captivating storyteller who creates a world of fantasy and magic with all its creatures and battles and just the right amount of scary monsters and warmhearted orphan story thrown into the mix. All of the characters, even the elves and trolls, have personalities; the set descriptions make even the fantastic seem real, and the plot twists and turns in unexpected ways. Pursuits are scary, and escapes hair-raising! While some may find the time-traveling sequences confusing, others will think they add a complexity that's completely engaging.

Readers of all ages will find this a real page-turner. Those who are impatient about how things turn out may want to gather all three books in the trilogy before even starting it. One story is so connected to the other that none stands completely on its own. Each chapter and book has a cliff-hanger ending that makes the reader want to turn the next page, even when there is none.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ways authors create fantasy worlds. What does it take to make the unreal seem so real? How do the magic worlds in books like Harry Potter or The Unwanteds compare with the one in The Fire Chronicle?

  • How do notions of trust and loyalty affect the difficult choices that Katherine and Michael must make?

  • How does the fantasy in The Fire Chronicle compare with that of books such as A Wrinkle in Time, The Chronicles of Narnia or Wildwood? What does creating brothers and sisters as main characters add to these stories? 

Book details

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For kids who love fantasy

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