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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Venom Wars of the Desert Realm is a science fiction and fantasy novel for children and preteens written by Michael Carlton Baumann and illustrated by Keira Negali. The Venom-crazed frogs and their evil commander, the giant rattlesnake, Eelion, were swift and brutal as they attacked Aridin, the eagle king and ruler of the Desert Realm and his mate, Sparra. Their valiant efforts to defend themselves and their unborn son and royal heir, the Oonakestree, were doomed by the sheer number of the attackers and the dizzying effect they had on their prey. Sparra was bitten, and her body lay motionless as the poison worked its way through her system. Aridin was treated even more harshly before the attackers left, triumphantly carrying off the royal egg. The royal heir was to be exposed to the Venom and made an integral part of its poisonous and twisted growing force. Honu, the great tortoise, knew what had to be done; it seemed as if all the hundreds of years he had existed were preparing him for his part in the attempt to reclaim the Oonakestree and cleanse the Desert Realm of the Venom. As he spoke to the assembled elders, he referred to the Old Poem and was heartened to see that the elders all felt as strongly as he did that the Oonakestree must be found. The Poem spoke of three brothers who could win this fight against overwhelming odds, and Honu was convinced that he knew who they were.
Michael Carlton Baumann’s epic fantasy novel, Venom Wars of the Desert Realm, pits three orphaned sibling hares against legions of Venom-infused adversaries. As with Frodo Baggins, Tolkien’s unassuming hobbit, Nick, Cade and Sam have no idea how to be heroes, no inkling of how to save the Oonakestree, and following as they accept their destiny and face overwhelming odds is inspiring indeed. Keira Negali’s dark and marvelous images make the evil Eelion, elder Honu, and the unlikely trio feel real, and witnessing as Sam faces the gigantic rattlesnake is the stuff of high fantasy indeed. There’s always the danger that a fantasy or adventure book starring animals will be too tame for all but the very young, but this is definitely not the case here. Any reader who remembers Richard Adams’s adventure fantasy novel, Watership Down, or more recently Tom Hoffman’s marvelous fantasy adventures featuring Orville Mouse and Bartholomew the Adventurer, can attest to the power and magic of good animal-themed epic fantasy, and they will not be at all disappointed with the epic fantasy and heroes found within these pages. Venom Wars of the Desert Realm is brilliant, and it’s most highly recommended.