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The Cabinet of Earths [Hardcover]

Anne Nesbet
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 3, 2012 8 - 12 years3 - 7800L (What's this?)

The Cabinet of Earths, Anne Nesbet’s debut novel for tweens, blends fantasy, science, and horror into an irresistible story in the vein of the classic His Dark Materials series.
Twelve-year-old Maya is miserable when she has to move from California to Paris. Not speaking French at a school full of snobby French girls is bad enough, but Maya believes there is something sinister going on in her new city. A purple-eyed man follows Maya and her younger brother, James. Statues seem to have Maya’s face. And an eerie cabinet filled with mysterious colored bottles calls to her.
When James becomes the target of dark forces, Maya decides she must answer the call of the Cabinet of Earths, despite the danger.

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When 13-year-old Maya’s family relocates to Paris, she finds herself facing expected and unexpected troubles. Given her father’s preoccupation with scientific study and her mother’s difficult cancer recovery, Maya knows that looking after her precocious little brother, James, will largely fall to her. She does not anticipate, however, being pulled towards the strange Cabinet of Earths—complete with an animate salamander handle—which is calling for a new keeper. Furthermore, when the behavior of her preternaturally young cousin goes from suspicious to menacing, Maya must match wits to rescue James and protect her family. In her debut novel, Nesbet has crafted a carefully imagined, magical world—one that is shrouded in mystery and keeps the reader engaged and guessing. As Maya puts all the pieces together, a fuller picture emerges; indeed, the more Maya understands and masters the various forces at play, the better the reader will appreciate her emotional growth. With imaginative alchemy, compelling action, and sensitive characterizations, this novel will undoubtedly win over fantasy fans. Grades 4-7. --Thom Barthelmess


“Nesbet’s first novel is an impressive achievement, its substance and style gracefully blended. Above all, Maya is a fully rounded, complex character, someone whose qualities and struggles are admirably and appealingly central to the fantasy.” (The Horn Book)

“Blending elements of magic, science, and even horror with evocative prose and a confident narrative voice, Nesbet immerses readers in her contemporary Parisian setting.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Nesbet has written a unique, interesting fantasy with just enough suspense to keep readers turning the pages long into the night. Fantasy readers of all ages, especially middle school students, will enjoy this story.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA))

“Though it’s easy to generalize this as a coming-of-age tale, Nesbet more specifically pinpoints this as the story of a young girl coming to terms with mortality while realizing that finding her intrinsic worth makes her content and also inspires her appreciation of those around her.” (Kirkus)

“This debut novel of intrigue, family betrayal and an unsolved case of missing children will grip readers from first page to last. Readers will be swept along by the novel’s swift pace and enjoy the mystery’s unraveling with Maya and Valko as their companions.” (Shelf Awareness)

“In her debut novel, Nesbet has crafted a carefully imagined, magical world—one that is shrouded in mystery and keeps the reader engaged and guessing. With imaginative alchemy, compelling action, and sensitive characterizations, this novel will undoubtedly win over fantasy fans.” (Booklist)

“Nesbet plays on both the charm of her Parisian setting and the shadowy eeriness of a city steeped in history to create an alluring sense of place that envelops readers from the first page.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

“Maya is a fully realized character...and readers will be rooting for her to find her strengths and save the day. This unique fantasy will catch its audience’s attention and leave them thinking about time, families, and immortality.” (School Library Journal)

Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 800L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061963135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061963131
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,542,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anne Nesbet writes books for kids and watches a lot of silent films. She lives near San Francisco with her husband, several daughters, and one irrepressible dog.
THE CABINET OF EARTHS (HarperCollins 2012) is her first novel; it tells the story of twelve-year-old Maya Davidson's tangle with some very old magic in Paris. Houses with bronze salamanders for door handles, statues that look too much like Maya's own worried face, a man wearing sunglasses to hide his radiant purple eyes-nothing is what it seems. To keep her family safe, Maya must make new friends (a cousin who is so unremarkable, she's actually hard to see; a Bulgarian boy named Valko who has practice not-fitting-in all over the world) and take on the magical underworld of Paris.
More adventures of Maya and Valko appear in A BOX OF GARGOYLES, which came out in 2013.
You can visit her online at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting variation on the old immortality theme January 2, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Yes, immortality is one of those notions that is a staple to fantasy writers and still manages to continue in popularity. Sure, sometimes the theme isn't very well written out, but thank goodness for those moments when the concept is portrayed in a fresh and dazzling light. "The Cabinet of Earths" is one of those.

Maya is a 13-year-old girl whose life is not going the way it wants. Not only is she still terrifies over her mother's recent battle with cancer, but the whole family packs up and moves to Paris for a year. But, in the true nature of a good story, things become much more interesting upon arrival. An ornate building with a salamander on its door intrigues her and her little brother James and the meeting of too-ordinary Cousin Louise sets in motion the events of a magical cabinet that stores mortality, leaving people immortal.

A touch of science combines with good ol' fashioned fantasy to create a truly delightful story. Ms. Nesbet keeps all the elements balanced and knows how to move the story along so the reader is desperate for further information but not yet quite irritated. The characters are thoroughly imagined and written, the writing personable and pleasing.

In a day where everyone seems to be writing children's fantasy, this is one that does meet and even exceeds expectations.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 Stars Dark Moments but Still Hopeful December 14, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It has some dark moments, including kidnapping, but the pacing is so fast that you don't dwell on them too long, but it does leave much to think about.

Maya and her family have just moved to Paris. She is not thrilled about this decision as she had to leave her dog and her friends behind, but she tries to put on a sunny front because this is her mother's wish. Her mother had been very sick, her cancer is now in remission, but Maya is always worried that the "cold" her parents tell her is nothing to worry about is really the cancer returning. Maya's brother James is 5, a natural charmer, and Maya is envious of the fact that he exists perpetually happy, while she had to grow up fast while dealing with her mother's illness. Of course, she also feels protective over her brother. Once in Paris, Maya starts noticing strange things - almost as if there is magic. They meet their strange cousin Louise, who seems forgettable, like she is just a shade. They also find a family connection in the Fourcroys, an old man with a strange Cabinet that Maya is drawn to, and Henri, a beautiful man that Maya doesn't quite trust and there is a group of magnetic, beautiful people who never seem to age. Maya also makes a friend with Valko, an outsider like herself. He is a very logical person and his explanations balance out Maya's burgeoning belief in magic. Then James is in danger, and Maya needs to step up and save him.

I thought that Maya's reactions were believable, and the reasoning in the end as to why she alone had to help her brother vs going to her parents felt believable as well (a must in a children's book).
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love the Book, hate the cover December 13, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I really dislike the current 'cartoonish' bookcover. It makes "The Cabinet of Earths" look like fluffy juvenile market stuff, which it's not.

I say this because Nesbet's story is nuanced, with subtle tensions and issues. It isn't a variation of Goose Bumps, or even an adventure like the Percy Jackson series. This is a sorta-creepy Steampunk-ish mystery book for people who like well written stories!


Backstory begins the book. We are introduced to the Cabinet itself and the Lavirottes and Fourcroys, the families at the heart of this book. And right from the beginning there is betrayal and death, and for us, the reader, the tantalizing mystery of what 'the earths' are.

From the WWII era, we are whisked into a steampunkish present where an American family has moved to Paris. The father, a scientist, has been offered a position with a Society which he believes has scientific focus like his own. But which, in fact, is a front for a foundation with it's feet in promoting magics that lead to long, long life.

This long life, and the vigor which can also be purchased, becomes of interest to our 13 year-old heroine, Maya, because her mother has been fighting cancer. And so the idea that Maya can save her beloved mother is very attractive. The question is, what is the price?

:::END Possibly Spoilers:::

I really liked this book. It's a stand-alone (okay, I'm hoping for a series) and it is so well written. One of those books where the narrative 'holds together' beautifully.

I found the characters well drawn and interesting. The tension was palpable and the mystery unfolded in logical steps.

If you liked "Cabinet of Wonders" by Marie Rutkoski or "The Kneebone Boy" by Ellen Potter, check this one out.

Pam T~
mom/#kidlit blogger
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Honestly, I'm desperately sad I didn't like this one more.

I was attracted to The Cabinet of Earths because it sounded like a new and unique idea with a good heaping helping of adventure. I did end up experiencing a really new idea, but the adventure just kind of fell a little flat. I liked the Paris aspect of it, but it didn't play into the story as much as I'd hoped.

There are mysteries that make you want to flip forward as fast as you can to find out what happens next and there are mysteries that make you want to flip backwards because you constantly feel like you missed something. I felt like I spent ¾ of the book with my forehead creased in confusion! Confusion definitely has its place in books, but this one just didn't work for me.

The story wasn't all bad. I really appreciated Maya's love and commitment to her family. The cabinet and all its elements were pretty fascinating as well. I wish it had been in the story a little more.

The Nutshell: All in all, The Cabinet of Earths wasn't a win for me, but it had a few good elements. The fantastical elements with the cabinet and earths was interesting, the Paris setting was good, and Maya was a good protag who loved her family more than anything. My biggest complaint lies in the fact that the story simply didn't draw me in.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful people who seem not to age
Spending a year in Paris with her family, Maya discovers the Society of Philosophical Chemistry. Or have they discovered her? Read more
Published 2 months ago by Katharine A. Owens
5.0 out of 5 stars A true page turner with some scary parts
As parents who uprooted their kids to Paris for a year, parts of this story rang eerily true for our kids (not the part about taking some life from young children to let others... Read more
Published 7 months ago by C. Cernosia
1.0 out of 5 stars A poorly written fantasy
I have read many fantasy stories in my life. The basic premise of this story was quite good but the writing was not. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ray E. Simmons III
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
I'm not one to go over the plots in my feedback. You'll get that from others. But this book, which I *just* finished, cries for a little blurb from this reader. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Mirka M. Breen
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating
I don't read a lot of fiction and I don't usually pick books up at random. This book was on the new books display at the library and I thought I would try something different over... Read more
Published 20 months ago by David Drum
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't miss this one
As a lover of Paris, I found this novel fascinating and beautifully written. For young adults and people of all ages.
Published 23 months ago by David Peretz
4.0 out of 5 stars Unexpected: A Very Different Paris from the One I Know!
As a mother who screens - or tries to anymore - everything her 13-year-old daughter reads, I had been quite happy to leave Michael Scott's Paris behind with "The Necromancer", Book... Read more
Published 24 months ago by M. Lee
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fresh Fun Youthful Adventure - Great Debut Novel
From the initial premise I was intrigued by The Cabinet of Earths. It felt freshly different than a lot of the other children's and young adult lit coming out these days. Read more
Published on May 17, 2012 by Chris
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh Take on Faust Myth
The "Faustian bargain" is not a new tale, but Anne Nesbet's version comes off as fresh and creative. Read more
Published on May 12, 2012 by CrimsonGirl
3.0 out of 5 stars Weird
This book sounded very interesting and like a great read. The book starts off slow and really just never grabbed my attention. Read more
Published on March 30, 2012 by James A. Nichols
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