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The House of Power: Atherton #1    by Patrick Carman order for
House of Power
by Patrick Carman
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

In the first book of his Atheron series, The House of Power, Patrick Carman creates a world that will capture the imagination of children and boggle the minds of adults. Atheron is a mysterious world separated into three distinct levels whose secrets Carman reveals as the story unfolds, thus keeping the reader (listener) constantly anticipating every word.

Edgar is an orphan who spends his days working in the fig grove on Tabletop under mean Mr. Rattigan, and his nights scaling the cliffs that form the center of Atherton in hopes of finding a mysterious gift left to him by a man he assumes to be his father. One night, Edgar discovers the object left for him: a handwritten journal. However, this poses a huge problem as no one in Tabletop can read. Risking everything by breaking numerous rules, Edgar decides to climb to the top of the cliff, up to the Highlands, where he hopes to find someone to read the book to him. Luckily, the first person Edgar encounters is a boy his own age, Samuel, who loves books and eagerly befriends and helps Edgar.

Edgar must return to Tabletop before morning but promises to return. When he does, one of the henchmen of the dictator, Lord Finius, steals the book from Samuel, who manages to rip out the last page and give it to Edgar. Armed with a page he cannot read, Edgar returns to Tabletop to help thwart a dastardly plot between Mr. Rattigan and Lord Finius. Having saved his village from harm, Edgar sets out to find someone else to read him the last page, but is betrayed by one of Lord Finius's minions and sent down the cliffs, to the Flatland. There, he encounters the vicious Cleaners and also Dr. Kincaid, who tells him the truth about Atherton, a truth that no one else would believe.

The House of Power is a gripping start to what promises to be a wonderful sci-fi series that should enthrall the whole family. Carman tells an intricate tale of power, rebellion, and environmental concerns that is inspiring. Also, Carman is not afraid to add dark elements, creating a much more realistic story than much of the light-hearted fare out there for pre-teens, which helps make this series appeal to all ages.

Listening to The House of Power is a great way for the whole family to enjoy it all at once - which is what I suggest doing as this is a book that can lead to many deep discussions. Jonathan Davis has a wonderful voice that keeps the listener's attention, although at times some of the characters sound alike. There is also a wonderful score underlying the more dramatic parts of the text, helping create an entertainment experience similar to watching an epic movie. Patrick Carman's imaginative world of Atherton will not soon be rivaled. I highly recommend this gripping unabridged audiobook for road trips this summer, or just for a break from typical family entertainment.

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