I got to know Mary Victoria while organizing Tales for Canterbury. I loved the story she wrote for the anthology, and knew that it would only be a matter of time before I checked out her longer work. Seeing as this blogging week was coming up, it seemed like the perfect time to launch myself into the Chronicles of the Tree.
The World Tree rises up out of the seething clouds like a green mountain. All creation nestles in its green branches. There is no world besides this one… or so the people believe.
Tymon grows up at Argos seminary in the lush heart of the Central Canopy, where science is a heretical pursuit and travel beyond the Tree is banned. But he yearns to break free of these rules and discover new horizons. When he meets a despised Nurian slave in the city baths, his dreams of freedom take on a completely different meaning.
Banished to a drought-ridden colony, Tymon falls in with a group of Nurian rebels and finds himself facing difficult choices. Fighting for freedom and power is not so enticing when it may mean betraying his own people and severing all ties to the world he knows.
Let me start this review by saying that I’ve never come across a more unique setting. The whole world is in a tree, everything is part of it, with four canopies making up the four regions of the world. It’s pretty amazing, while also being quite challenging at times – it’s just so very different from your typical fantasy novel setting. It took me awhile to get to grips with the big picture, but I found it beautiful and fantastic. I’m a huge fan of trees, but the scope of this one is beyond anything I’ve ever imagined!
I really enjoyed this book, more than I thought I would in fact. I have been finding it harder to get into fantasy lately, but with the unique setting, the smattering of other elements such as dirigibles, a society in which science is virtually taboo, and strong themes of prejudice and culture clashes, this book really rocked.
The main character is a young boy, bound to the church for raising him. He’s at odds with everything in his world through, and finds himself more often interested in things outside the sphere of what’s acceptable than not. When he meets a Nurian slave, everything changes for him and he makes decisions which lead to him being sent to the outreaches of society.
This is where the adventure really kicks into gear as we get to watch him interact with a race of people who despise his kind and unravel the mysteries hinted at in the first third of the book.
The conflict felt very true to me, and I think Mary did a fantastic job capturing that on the page from the perspective of a young man. I could feel the oppression, anger and distaste of the Nurian’s towards the Argosian’s, and would throw my lot in with them as well, if I had the chance.
The characters are engaging, and the story line captivating. It may not be as action packed as other novels, but it’s a beautifully told story with a lot of heart and fire.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes high fantasy and it looking for a richly drawn and detailed world to throw themselves into. Unlike much fantasy out there, this is not just a revamp of anglo-saxon medieval times, it’s a refreshing change! I am looking forward to sinking back into this world when I pick up the sequel, Samiha’s Song, in the near future – it’s a great time to start reading because the third book in the series is out shortly!