In the land of Elyon, there is a kingdom shaped like a wagon wheel, with the cities of Lathbury, Turlock, and Lunenburg at the end of each spoke, and long roads connecting them to the center city of Bridewell - of course, the only significant thing about this is each city and road is surrounded by great forty-two feet tall walls. When Thomas Warvold settled in an valley commonly thought to be haunted and dangerous, people started to believe that perhaps it really was a safe place to live, and so many immigrated to the area until it became too crowded. Warvold decided new cities should be established to accomodate the growing population, but knowing the people still had a lingering fear of the surrounding forests and mountains, he struck a deal with the nearby city of Ainsworth - he was going to take three hundred convicts off the hands of their over-capacity prison with the exception that he could send them back after ten years, no questions asked, giving the city enough time to expand the building so it could hold more prisoners. He then put the criminals, marked with a "C" on their foreheads, to work building the vast walls surrounding the roads and cities, allowing the citizens to feel secure and protected from the threatening unknown wilderness - after each wall was complete, the criminals were returned, as promised, to Ainsworth.
When twelve-year-old Alexa Daley accompanies her father, the mayor of Lathbury, on his annual trip to Bridewell, she is intent on finding a way outside the wall. She gets far more than she bargained for, though, after Warvold dies the day they arrive in the city after a strangely foreboding conversation with Alexa - upset and confused as she is, something drives her to open a locket the man wore around his neck, where she finds a small, silver key that will prove to be useful in her search. With the captain of the guards, Pervis Kotcher, getting in the way and threatening her to stay out of trouble, Alexa searches for clues in the city's library, and enjoying the company of the building's feline inhabitants, Sam and Pepper, she takes particular interest in a book of Elyon myths, said to be a favorite of Warvold's. When she discovers what appears to be a secret map of the library with a hidden room located right behind the chair she usually sits in, the key she had found with Warvold is put to use, unlocking a panel in the wall, revealing a long passageway that leads outside - beyond the wall.
As Alexa emerges from the passage, a tiny man named Yipes appears to be waiting for her, and urging her to hurry, he proceeds to lead her up through the mountains. After finding a glowing stone that grants her the ability to understand the speech of animals, she parts ways with Yipes, and is in turns escorted by Darius, a wolf, and a rabbit named Malcolm to a meeting with the creatures of the forest. At the meeting, much is revealed, including the impending return of the mysterious figure called Elyon, the fading of magic from the land, a misinterpreted prophecy, the need for the walls to come down, and Alexa's role in it all. She is told of a secret plot involving convicts - the same ones that built the kingdom's walls - living in the Dark Hills being led by someone in Bridewell, going by the name of Sebastian, to invade the city and use the surrounding barrier against its residents - it is up to Alexa to discover the identity of the traitor before it's too late.
Upon her arrival back in Bridewell, with her new found gift, she discovers that Sam and Pepper, the library cats, have been spying on her for Sebastian. Realizing she must be cautious, everyone becomes a suspect - Pervis; the librarian, Grayson; Ganesh, the mayor of Turlock; Warvold's son, Nicolas; even her own father. With the help of an energetic squirrel named Murphy and an unexpected ally, Alexa begins piecing together clues, but time runs out when she learns the convicts are on the move. With no choice, she must warn everyone of the attack, even though it means revealing herself to the still unknown Sebastian and putting her life at risk.
The review of this Book prepared by Jessica Sayers