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*Starred Review* Gr. 6-12. Barron builds on his popular Lost Years of Merlin saga, creating an elaborate, richly detailed world spread out on the seven roots of the Great Tree of Avalon, which grew from "a seed won by Merlin on his journey through a magical mirror." The story begins in Avalon's year 1002, when it appears that the Lady of the Lake's Dark Prophecy is coming true and the only hope of saving Avalon lies in finding Merlin's true heir. The fates of two boys born 17 years earlier and raised as brothers are intrinsically bound to the prophecy: Scree, the orphaned eagleboy charged with guarding Merlin's staff, and Tamwyn, who fears he is the Dark Child destined to destroy Avalon. Liberally laced with humour and wit, the first book in The Great Tree of Avalon series effectively introduces and fleshes out remarkable characters, both human and nonhuman. It also vividly sets the scene through the adventures of various beings who eventually come together in a desperate quest to stop the evil that threatens Avalon and its denizens. Even readers unfamiliar with The Lost Years will relish this fine debut of a promising new fantasy series. Sally Estes
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T.A. Barron is the award-winning author of fantasy novels such as The Lost Years of Merlin epic--soon to be a major motion picture. He serves on a variety of environmental and educational boards including The Nature Conservancy and The Land and Water Fund of the Rockies, and is the founder of a national award for heroic children. Following a life-changing decision to leave a successful business career to write full-time in 1990, Barron has written seventeen books, but is happiest when on the mountain trails with his wife, Currie, and their five children.