This middle-grade sequel sees a girl, her heroic friends, and the animal kingdom fight against a hospital hungry for victims.
The year is 1908, and 12-year-old Chloe Ashton has awoken in an impossibly comfy bed. The bed is in a treehouse built by the dashing Brisco Knot, and she can hear her friend Mrs. Goodweather making breakfast. This idyllic morning follows the tragic events that separated her from her parents. And nearby, through the Oregon woods, an evil hospital thrives. Its ambulances race the countryside, raiding homes and bringing people back for murderous treatment. Chloe and her friends, including a white rat named Shakespeare, plan to break into the hospital and shut it down. Meanwhile, Lord Winchfillin and the Artist—who won Chloe in a card game from her horrid Uncle Blake—travel toward “the great silver mountain, Wy’east.” There, the vast animal kingdom shall meet and listen to Silas the Stargazer, a legendary hermit with whom the stars speak. His address, to predators and prey alike, will hopefully muster a force to stop humanity from inflicting permanent damage on the world. And is there any hope of rebuilding the Bridge of the Gods, to reconnect the lands of the north and south? In her novel, Rios (Bridge of the Gods, 2017) brings chaos—but also healing—to a sprawling cast of humans and talking animals. Characters like King Auberon, who’s a gigantic bear, lend mythic grandeur to the narrative, and there’s a sylvan lyricism in their depiction (“Small twigs and several dead bees fell out of his fur, and the smell of fish was stronger than ever”). Throughout, the author emphasizes how everything—and everyone—in nature is connected. When Chloe receives praise on a job well done, she says, “It was my friends too.” And readers should note that the story begins with the constellations Cygnus and Scorpius warning Earth of danger. Despite some frightening battle scenes, the finale is a joyous affair. Further escapades starring a teen Chloe would be welcome.
A thematically and visually potent adventure with a strong cast.