Oak trees and alchemy bring Zharo, an emotionally scarred dragon and Mac, a three-time leukemia survivor, together. After spending months in the hospital, 15-year-old Mac is officially in remission. He’s a few days from discharge when he witnesses three men emerge from an old oak tree in the hospital’s healing garden and drag a sick child into the tree, ordering Mac not to follow.
Never great at obeying rules, Mac steps through the oak’s trunk and finds himself in the central hub of the linked worlds that form Spiritwood. Once there, his path crosses with Zharo, the troubled prince of a dwindling race of dragons. A horrible accident in Zharo’s youth left him unable to breathe fire or bond with trees.
The unlikely comrades discover that an evil king is extracting cancer from the blood of children for use in a spell that will make him incredibly powerful, even immortal. What’s worse, this dark magic has begun sickening the oak trees that link the worlds together and, consequently, the dragons that bond with these trees—Zharo’s people.
The relentless nature of the disease that’s killing the trees is a lot like Mac’s leukemia, a disease he’s been battling since the age of eight. He possesses the knowledge to stop it from spreading through Spiritwood’s worlds. After all, you kill trees the same way you kill cancer—you cut, you burn, you poison. But with each child stolen, the king is growing stronger and Mac’s chance of stopping the disease is growing weaker.
With Zharo’s help, he must reach the sacred tree that is the source of the first outbreak of disease and cut it down or Zharo’s people will die and the children in Mac’s world will continue to be harvested for the sickness in their blood.
Mac sat facing an ancient oak tree, his eyes drawn to the orange moon that filled the sky. This was the only place in the entire hospital that didn’t make him feel like a patient. His gaze shifted to the tree as he thought about the conversation he’d overheard, the one that had driven him here—his cancer was in remission, but it wouldn’t stay that way forever. For the first time since his original diagnosis eight years ago, he’d heard his doctors admit defeat.
Tucked away in a partially enclosed courtyard, the hospital’s healing garden was almost always empty. This suited Mac just fine. They’d built the garden about a year ago and it was the perfect place to escape prodding nurses, crying roommates and—worst of all—his parents. Right now it was technically closed, but you could get to the garden from the outside of the hospital. Mac had quietly slipped past the abandoned security desk to come outside and look at the moon.
Slumped on a wooden bench, his backpack at his feet, Mac tried to pretend he was outside in his own backyard. His phone buzzed and he sighed, looking down as the screen lit up.
They need to do vitals in 30 minutes.
be there in 25
Don’t be late!
Mac slipped his phone into the front pocket of his backpack and shivered in the evening chill, looking at a cluster of spiky green plants without really seeing them.