The story takes ALDITHA the white witch and her familiar, HARPER the talking (though not terribly bright) owl from their usual business serving the residents of the Garden on a path that pits them against SKOROS, the would-be evil wizard (useless at magic, great at engineering, has a brass wand, a smart alec talking raven familiar, an enormous wind-up computer running Mirrors 2.0 and controls a flock of cyber-bats), who plans to take over the Garden.
When a giant teacup lands in their world, they are introduced to CELESTE, a teenaged alien girl (who’s really much older than she looks) and ALPHA, her bio-mechanoid co-pilot, who looks like a typical ‘Grey’ alien. They’re ASTARIANS, their scout ship is merely disguised as a teacup so as not to alarm the natives, and they’re searching for ‘The Sleepers’ – a long-lost Astarian expedition whose mission was to find a new home planet. The Astarians’ original home world was lost many thousands of years before, and now the entire species lives in a fleet of spacecraft, travelling through the galaxies. Thousands of years ago, the Sleepers reported they’d found a suitable uninhabited world, but then stopped transmitting. Celeste and Alpha are here to try and find them.
The Garden is a world where magic and nature are intertwined – it has no rulers, but it has an amazing effect – things which would not be alive elsewhere are alive in the Garden, alongside folkloric figures like THE GREEN MAN. So you have The CREMINI FAMILY of intelligent mushrooms, led by MAMA REDCAP, you have OLD TOM, a potato with a passion for digging, RAGBAG the scarecrow, JASPER the reclusive living spellbook, alongside more traditional fantasy elements like wizards, trolls, goblins and particularly SAGAR, the Blue Dragon. When Celeste and Alpha arrive, some of their flying spherical droids, known as Orbs, go haywire, and eventually are reprogrammed by Skoros (really, very good at engineering), allowing him to quickly put down resistance and take over the Garden.
The central feature and focal point of the Garden is a monument to the nearest thing the Gardenfolk have to a god (Ven Tao, the Great Gardener). The monument is Stone Hedge, and it’s actually the petrified drive system of The Sleepers’ dimension-hopping ship. When Celeste accidentally wakes The Sleepers from thousands of years of cryogenic sleep, into which they went when their ship was accidently destroyed in a freak accident, the battle is on, not only to defeat Skoros and free the Garden from his malign and polluting influence, but also to defeat the leader of The Sleepers, who decides to make the planet uninhabited again, as it was when he originally found it. It takes the united efforts of all kinds of Gardenfolk, as well as Celeste, Alpha and some of the Sleepers to overcome both threats before the main Astarian fleet arrives, and a deal can be brokered to co-exist with the Garden’s newest residents. The book contains themes of friendship, acceptance, social pressure and the power of community, but above all, it tells an exciting epic story through believable characterization within a fantastic universe, with fast pacing and the effective use of humour. It's a great read for adults, too!