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Atherton #2: Rivers of Fire

Review

Atherton #2: Rivers of Fire

Three lands previously separated by tall cliffs were now together as one…Danger seemed to close in from all sides, as it never had before, because the world of Atherton was flat.

Or was it?

When last we left Atherton, much was still in the process of change. Young Edgar, continuing to search for answers, is trying to adjust to the newness of Atherton's layout --- the cliffs he so loved to climb have disappeared along with the three layers that made up Atherton's geography. There are still dangerous-sounding rumbles coming from the Flatlands, and it is obvious that the Highlands are in the process of sliding down inside Atherton. For Edgar this is a mixed blessing. He sees that new cliffs are actually being created --- cliffs he can climb --- but he knows this world is at risk and somehow must, with Dr. Kincaid's help, find The House of Power and Dr. Harding (if the doctor is still alive.) One of the most fearsome dangers at present is the hideous Cleaners who now have easy access to the people.

The Cleaners were giant, ferocious creatures designed to find and kill anything in their paths. They had always been trapped in the Flatlands, but the Flatlands had risen and a thousand Cleaners had been unleashed on the world of Atherton.

In the time being, the evil Lord Phineus, leader of Atherton, is planning his next move so he can maintain complete control over the people and their water source.  He will not relinquish his powers or his secrets because of some eager little boy, nor will he offer any information on the mysterious disappearance of Dr. Harding.

When Edgar and his party finally confront Lord Phineus, he has been bitten by a Crat (a cross between a rat and a cat --- one of Dr. Harding's creations), and this gives him only hours to live. As their prisoner, Lord Phineus alternates between his madness and something else. Readers will not expect the revelations that come from the dying man and the consequences to Edgar and his friends as they struggle through a place called the Infernal (rivers of fire, cave eels, fire bugs).

As all of these things are happening to the little traveling group, on the Flatlands their families and friends are in a mortal struggle against the Cleaners. Horace, once a follower of Lord Phineus, has vowed to protect his people. And along with the wise and kindly Wallace, they engage in an unforgettable struggle with the vicious beasts.  There are heartbreaking sacrifices made as these brave men and their companions put up a dreadful fight against the blood-thirsty Cleaners.

When Edgar and his companions are finally near the end of their dangerous journey through the Infernal, Isabel, who has been bitten twice by fire bugs, encounters one last (known to be fatal) bite:

While no one was paying much attention, a fire bug danced out to the bay all alone and landed softly on Isabel's hand, and she felt something deep inside that made her think she was about to die. This time she did not convulse at the touch of the fire bug. She only went limp, barely breathing at the edge of the infernal.

RIVERS OF FIRE is a fast-action story with heart-stopping moments throughout. The development of the characters and the surprising revelations of their relationships give the book some intense twists. Readers will be riveted by the constant edge of mystery and adventure, which hopefully will continue in the third installment of Patrick Carman's compelling series.

Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts on April 1, 2009

Atherton #2: Rivers of Fire
by Patrick Carman

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2009
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0316166731
  • ISBN-13: 9780316166737