"Dedicated to my children, Ben and Larkin, and their friend, Lucile--who asked two simple questions: 'What really happened between The Lost Years of Merlin and The Great Tree of Avalon?' and 'Who was Merlin's most bizarre friend?'"
The dedication for Merlin's Dragon captures exactly what the book is about. Merlin has planted the seed that will become the Great Tree of Avalon, a new world that will essentially replace the lost land of Fincayra as a world between worlds. At the same time, however, something else was born. As Merlin plants Avalon's seed, a small egg lands nearby. This egg, in Avalon's first year, hatches in Woodroot, one of the seven root realms of the Great Tree. From it comes a small creature, somewhat like a lizard and somewhat like a bat. He is small, but his destiny is great.
This little creature eventually discovers a special power of his: he can produce different scents. One day while hiding from a predator, he makes himself smell like a nearby patch of basil to conceal himself. Thus he acquires the name Basil. He knows little of the magic that lies within him, and he also knows little about who he really is. In his young years living in the forests of Woodroot, Basil spends most of his time being chased by foxes, snakes, and dactylbirds, who all think he would make a delicious meal. But Basil has a favorite pastime: listening to other creatures' gossip. He learns some, though not much, about the outside world. For example, he hears tales of Shim, the famous giant, and Gwynnia, the fierce dragon, and most of all, the great wizard, Merlin.
One night Basil dreams that Merlin is being attacked by a giant creature with wings and bat-like ears. When he awakens, Basil thinks the creature might kill Merlin--and also thinks the creature could be himself. Driven by his desire to warn Merlin of his dream, and to learn more about the world--and himself--Basil decides to journey outside the small corner of his forest. Immediately he comes upon a portal and, quite by accident, ends up in a realm away from his own--Stoneroot.
While there, Dagda, the ruler of the gods of the spirit realm, gives Basil a great task: to warn all of Avalon that Rhita Gawr, the most powerful evil spirit, has come to the mortal world to conquer it, and most importantly to find and warn Merlin himself. Basil then sets out on a journey with his lifelong friend, the windsister Aylah, who carries him to the seven root realms of Avalon in search of the illustrious wizard. Along the way, perhaps, Basil will find his true identity and discover a greater purpose to his small existence.
Written with the uncanny wit and skill of T.A. Barron, Merlin's Dragon takes readers to a world beyond their wildest dreams. Barron's immense imagination has once again created a unique and original character in Basil who is sympathetic and kind, adventurous and humble. Basil's journey is one we all take in an attempt to find our place in the world and to truly appreciate how unique each of us is. Younger readers will love the adventure, the fun and interesting creatures, and adults will love the depth and meaning of the story. This book takes Barron fans back to the beginning of Avalon, when Merlin is still a young wizard, and when several of your favorite Fincayra characters appear again. Travel through the seven root realms with Basil and Aylah to discover the mystery, the magic, and the mists of the Great Tree of Avalon.
Join us at the Boulder Bookstore on Tuesday, November 10th at 6:30pm for an event with T.A. Barron, who will be talking about and signing Doomraga's Revenge, his exciting new sequel to Merlin's Dragon.
Reviewed by Jackie Ariniello