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by T.A. Barron

Age Range: 9 - 11

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-399-24750-7
Publisher: Philomel

A new series opens in Barron’s trite version of Avalon. Basil is a tiny, unique creature, batlike and lizardlike, ignorant of his purpose but destined for greatness. His name commemorates the day he hid in a patch of basil plants, which was the same day he realized he could magically emit smells. The herb reference and scent talent are rare creative details in this morass of overwritten and unclear tropes. As Basil travels through Avalon’s “seven root-realms,” seeking kin and identity and trying to warn Merlin that evil’s invading, Barron’s artificial pacing (unrestrained use of “suddenly” and “instantly”) and preachy faux-wisdom (“Memory can be hot as molten lava, or cold as a frozen glacier”) preclude momentum. The prose is swollen with superlatives, and Avalon’s basic conceit is confusing: The Great Tree is an actual tree, but also “a world between worlds,” with “fires” and “rivers” inside. Rather than offering “a world profoundly rich in both wonder and mystery,” as it boasts, this overindulgence delivers readers nothing but smugness. (Fantasy. 9-11)