For Ages
8 to 12

The Black Reckoning is a part of the Books of Beginning collection.

The final book in the bestselling Books of Beginning trilogy that began with The Emerald Atlas, which the New York Times called “a new Narnia for the tween set.”

The adventures of siblings Kate, Michael, and Emma come to a stunning conclusion when they must find the last Book of Beginning—the Book of Death—before the Dire Magnus does, for when all three books are united, their combined power will be unstoppable.

Soon Emma is on a journey to places both worldly and otherworldly, confronting terrifying monsters and ghosts, and what is darkest within herself. As the fabric of time begins to fray, she becomes the final piece of an extraordinary puzzle. Only if she can master the powers of this most dangerous book will she, Kate, and Michael be able to save the world from the dramatic, deadly final confrontation between magical and ordinary people that the Dire Magnus has in store.

An Excerpt fromThe Black Reckoning

"Let me out! Let me out!"

Emma's throat was ragged from shouting; her hands throbbed from pounding her fists against the metal door.

"Let me out!"

She had woken with a jolt several hours earlier--covered in sweat, Kate's name upon her lips--to find herself alone in a strange room. She didn't question the fact that it was no longer night, that she was no longer in the clearing. She didn't even wonder where she now was. None of that mattered. She'd been abducted, she was a prisoner, she had to escape. It was that simple.

"Let me out!"

The first thing she'd done--after trying the door and confirming that it was indeed locked--had been to inspect her cell to see if it offered any obvious means of escape. It hadn't. The walls, floor, and ceiling were made from large blocks of black stone. The three small windows, too high up for Emma to reach, showed nothing but blue sky. Besides that, there was the bed on which she'd woken--really just a mattress and a few blankets--and some food: a plate of flatbread, bowls of yogurt and yellow-brown hummus, some burned, unidentifiable meat, a clay jug of water. The food and water Emma had hurled out a window in a fit of pride and anger, an act she was now regretting as she was both hungry and very, very thirsty.


Emma leaned, exhausted, against the door. She felt the urge to sink to the floor, put her face in her hands, and sob. But then she thought of Kate, her older sister, and of hearing Kate's voice as Rourke had carried her across the clearing. Their sister had returned from the past only to die right in front of them. And Michael, though he was Keeper of the Book of Life, had been unable to bring her back (leading Emma to question what, then, was the point in having something called the Book of Life). But she had heard Kate's voice! That meant Michael must've succeeded! Kate was alive! And knowing Kate was out there somewhere meant there was no way, like zero-point-zero-zero-zero-zero percent chance, that Emma was just going to sit down and cry.


Her forehead was still pressed against the cold metal of the door, and she was screaming directly into it, feeling the vibrations as she struck the door with her fists.


Emma stopped; she held her breath. The whole time she'd been hitting the door and screaming, she'd been met with total, thundering silence. But now she heard something, footsteps. They were faint and somewhere far below her, but they were growing louder. Emma backed away from the door and looked about for a weapon, cursing herself once again for throwing the clay jug out the window.

The footsteps grew even louder, a heavy, rhythmic thud--thud--thud. Emma decided that when the door opened, she would rush past whoever it was. Wasn't Michael always saying something about the element of surprise? If only her big toe didn't hurt so bad. She was pretty sure she'd broken it kicking the stupid door. The footsteps had stopped just outside her room, and there was the metallic rasp of a bolt being slid back. Emma tensed and got ready to spring.

Then the door opened, Rourke ducked inside, and all Emma's plans of escape vanished. The giant man filled the doorway; a fly couldn't have squeezed past.

"My, my. Aren't you making quite the racket."

He was wearing a long black coat that was lined with fur and had a high fur collar. He had on black boots that came nearly to his knees. He was smiling, showing miles of large white teeth, and his skin was smooth and unscarred, the burns the volcano had left on his face, which Emma had seen when he'd seized her in the clearing, now completely healed.

Emma felt the stone wall pressing against her back. She forced herself to look up and meet Rourke's gaze.

She said, "Gabriel's gonna kill you."

The giant laughed. Really laughed, throwing back his head like people did in movies, the sound booming off the ceiling.

"And a very good morning to you too, young lady."

"Where am I? How long have I been here?"

With Rourke standing before her, and the possibility of escape now essentially nil, Emma wanted the answers she hadn't cared about before.

"Oh, just since last night. And as to your location: you're at the far end of the world, and everything around you is shrouded in enchantments. Your friends could pass by and never know. You will not be rescued."

"Ha! Your stupid spells aren't gonna stop Dr. Pym. He'll just do that"--Emma snapped her fingers--"and this whole place will fall apart."

Rourke smiled at her, and Emma recognized it as the smile adults give children when they aren't taking them seriously. Had Rourke's face been anywhere remotely within reach, Emma would've punched it.

"I think, lass, that you're overestimating your wizard and underestimating my master."

"What're you talking about? The stupid Dire Magnus is dead. Dr. Pym told us."

Another of those annoying smiles. He was really asking for it.

"Was dead, child. But no more. My master is returned. You should know. You saw him yourself."

"No, I didn't--"

Emma fell silent. An image had come to her from the night before, that of the green-eyed boy stepping from the flames. And with the memory, a shadow seemed to fall over her. She struggled to throw it off, told herself it was impossible, that boy couldn't be the Dire Magnus!

Under the Cover