From School Library Journal
Grade 6-9–In this first installment in a new series, Barron reimagines the legendary world of Avalon as a gigantic tree, with a separate realm located on each of its seven roots and stars hanging in the unseen branches far atop its trunk. A crippling drought has brought the realm to the verge of warfare, and 17-year-old Tamwyn and his bickering companions seek the advice of the fabled Lady of the Lake. Tamwyn fears he's the child of the Dark Prophecy, foretold centuries ago as the one who would destroy Avalon, and he wants desperately to change his destiny and save his beloved world. With its mixture of high fantasy and slapstick humor, the tale resembles Barron's "The Lost Years of Merlin" series (Philomel) and Lloyd Alexander's "Chronicles of Prydain" (Holt). Despite loads of goofiness and violence, the plot moves rather slowly through lengthy introductions of the large cast and descriptions of the Great Tree. While the characters and setting are interesting, this is clearly the prologue to a much longer saga: all beginning, with no middle or end. The story will appeal most to devoted fantasy readers, particularly fans of the "Merlin" series, who will recognize details from the earlier books and try to guess how the epics will converge.–Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT
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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 humor 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 EstesCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved