Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Tree of Water

The Tree of Water
by Elizabeth Haydon
Recommended Ages: 12+

In the fourth book of The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme, the young Nain explorer continues his journeys to find out all the magic in the world and report it to a good young king. He has already explored the thieves' quarter of the city of Kingston, stopped a war between the dwarflike Nain and the elflike Lirin, and survived an encounter with Scarnag the dragon who represents earth-magic. He just missed the opportunity to visit one of the five world trees because his merrow (mermaid) friend Amariel needed to get back to the sea before she lost her fins forever. Now his chance has finally come to visit Amariel's world under the sea.

Ven has been told that a traveler sometimes doesn't know the reason for his journey until he reaches the end. There are certainly any number of possible reasons for this one. First, he still needs to steer clear of the Thief Queen, who has a grudge against him. Also, he has promised Amariel that he will travel with her below the waves. And then there's the reason a mysterious seer gives him, another dragon scale to be returned to its rightful owner at the bottom of the ocean. But above all, his curiosity and his job as the king's reporter pull him onward in search of the Tree of Water fabled to live somewhere out at sea.

Ven and his human friend Char are lucky enough to find a way to breathe underwater without having to let a scary old fisherman carve gills in their necks. The magical stones they carry provide not only air but also light in the dim depths. But solving the oxygen problem is only the first obstacle they must pass. After that comes the teeming ocean full of things that eat other things without regret or apology. Sharks, jellyfish, and giant devouring creatures of the sunlit realm are only the first and least of the dangers they face. After that come sea elves armed for war against the people on land, and a senselessly deadly waterspout, and a merciless sea dragon who breathes caustic acid instead of fire. Finally all Ven's reasons for visitng the sea combine with a spooky prophecy and a race to save Amariel's life to lure him and his friends into the deepest, darkest, deadliest place of all.

The way Ven and his companions travel to the deepest of deeps is truly ingenious. It is also full of gloomy dread and suspense. Along the way, they witness many marvelous and awful things, wonders of the underwater world that mankind has only begun to explore. The magic is impressive, but equally impressive is the window this book opens on a vast part of the natural world. And just when it seemed Ven's journals might be at an end, the storyline takes off in a new direction with even bigger possibilities than before.

This book arrives on October 28, 2014, carrying the promise of still more sequels. I am thankful to the staff at Starscape Books for giving me an early peek at it. I am glad to be able to say, in all sincerity, that I thought this book was even more entertaining than the three before it. Their titles, by the way, are The Floating Island, The Thief Queen's Daughter, and The Dragon's Lair. The series takes place in the same fantasy world as the author's other major series of novels, Symphony of Ages, of which an eighth book is expected in 2015.

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