An inventive if flawed debut, the first in a series, that opens a window onto a fantasy world where bears wield power in a long-civilized animal kingdom--though their position is imperiled by the smoldering resentments of subject species, and by others of their own kind. Edgar and Alice are young siblings who decide to visit their Uncle Claudio, leading magistrate in the distant, booming city of commerce Bargeton; the two set off on a trek across the pastoral Commonwealth of Bears, accompanied by an unwanted Slizz (reptiles herded for their fleece, some of whom prove able to speak and so are given an education and a place in society). They find Bargeton in turmoil, about to be assaulted by hitherto unseen Crimson Bears: supposedly immense, ferocious creatures with no love for their city-dwelling kin. In the excitement, Edgar and Alice escape their uncle's protection to explore the metropolis, encountering sinister saurian Thoogs and the remains of a forgotten feline kingdom as they go. At a magical banquet held by rollicking yet purposeful ClownCats in their mechanical wonderland, they learn of the imminent danger to all bears, but are helped to escape by those who would seek a peaceful resolution. On their return to Claudio, they find the city in flames and are captured by renegade Ceruks (educated Slizz), only to slip away again with the aid of their trusty Slizz companion, who proves to be the son of a prominent goldsmith in Bargeton and who's far more accomplished than anyone suspected. Pleasantly fanciful, even inspired at times, but also marred by persistent cuteness and a dearth of sustained drama.