Philomel Books/Penguin Young Readers Group: NY, 2004.
The concept of a tree so huge that it contains seven realms-and that's just the roots of the tree-is a promising start for the series. Add to this the fact that Merlin was instrumental in the growth of it, and his mother and sister governed and nurtured the realms in his absence. Then, a time comes when Avalon's whole future is at stake, and Merlin's heir (whoever he is) is the one person who can restore harmony.
The story starts powerfully with the prophecy. Merlin gives the care of young Tamwyn to an eaglewoman with a son the same age. He gives his staff to the son (Scree) to protect until it is needed in the future by Merlin's "true heir." Years later the mother dies and the boys are wrenched apart-one to wander in search of his foster brother and the other to go back to their origins and await the arrival of his brother.
The strength of the story is the characters (and the initial setup). I would like to have seen more of Scree, but maybe that will happen in other books. The focus is more on Tamwyn and Elli, a young priestess who also plays an important role and will likely be involved in succeeding books. I am also looking forward to more exploration of the Tree of Avalon itself in later books. I feel certain Barron will reveal more of the connection between Earth and the Otherworld.
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