The Eternal Flame – T.A. Barron

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The Eternal Flame is the third and final volume in T.A. Barron’s The Great Tree of Avalon fantasy trilogy. As in most fantasies that involve power grabs by villains  and salvation by untested heroes, the final book is mostly battle scenes. Books that are a sequence of battle scenes remind me of video games aimed at boys. Lesson learned: Don’t pick up a fantasy series at the end unless you love made-up creatures taking each other out in highly imaginative and bloody ways.

The series treats a world in the stars where some humans and a raft of invented tree, troll, gnome, elf, flamethrower and other critters are trying to destroy or save Avalon. Merlin has been banished to earth so he’s no help. It’s up to the young hero Tamwyn and a couple of chicks—Elli, an orphan who lives by harp music and Brionna, an elf who’s a sharpshooter with a bow and arrow—to save Avalon and several other starry worlds.

Terrible tricks are played on the good guys. People lose limbs, eyes, hope and their lives—well, they’re not all people but they suffer all the same. Once the war commences, it’s a steady procession of engagement, terrible rout by one side or the other, coup de grace via some magical technique or tool, many deus ex machina moments when all is lost but wait! salvation arrives in the nick of time.

The Eternal Flame is certainly imaginative and decently done for a genre book. At the end is a lengthy history and character biographies to help you out if you were an idiot like me and started with book 3. It’s no Lord of the Rings so I wouldn’t categorize it as a young people’s book that is really for all audiences. The stories were NYT best sellers so there are true fans out there, tracking developments in the heavens and worried about good and evil dragons, changelings and enchanted weapons. I like my Avalon tales a bit earthier and more Druidical so I’ll probably glide past volumes one and two and hunt for more Merlin-centric mists and lakes stuff for future reads.

The Eternal Flame (The Great Tree of Avalon, Book 3)   T.A. Barron | Philomel Books   2006

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