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Gr 4-8-A kingdom existing entirely amid the huge, intertwining branches of a giant forest is the intriguing setting for this fantasy. When a 14-year-old plumber named Ark overhears a treasonous plot to attack Arborium, the boy must escape the conspirators and find a way to save his homeland. The origins of the tree-based society are based in a thoughtful mixture of technology, religion, and magic, and the imaginative concept is fleshed out through descriptions of plumbing systems, root mining, and other logistical details. While the setting is vividly rendered, plot and characterization are more conventional. The narrative alternates between Ark, a fairly standard orphaned hero with a secret destiny, and Petronio, the conniving son of Arborium's evil High Councillor. Ark's experiences are remarkable, but his emergence into the savior of his kingdom is not especially compelling. Petronio is actually the more interesting of the two; he begins as a whiny bully, then develops into a crafty and truly dangerous villain. Occasionally stiff dialogue and brief shifts to viewpoints of minor players make it harder to connect strongly with any of the characters. There's plenty of action, though, and enough twists and surprises to keep pages turning. Several tree-based expressions ("what the holly?") add some light humor. The primary appeal here is for the strongly realized fantasy setting and the mythical and scientific elements that support it. Though the initial attack on Arborium is rebuffed, key villains survive, setting the stage for a likely sequel.-Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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