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BOOK REVIEW: Walking the Tree  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Title: Walking the Tree


Author: Kaaron Warren

Publisher: Angry Robot

RRP: $16.99

ISBN: 9780857660435

Release Date: December 2010

Pages: 528



Description:



Botanica is an island, but almost the entire island is taken up by the Tree.



Little knowing how they came to be here, small communities live around the coast line. The Tree provides them shelter, kindling, medicine – and a place of legends, for there are ghosts within the trees who snatch children and the dying.



Lillah has come of age and is now ready to leave her community and walk the tree for five years, learning all Botanica has to teach her. Before setting off, Lillah is asked by the dying mother of a young boy to take him with her. In a country where a plague killed half the population, Morace will otherwise be killed in case he has the same disease. But can Lillah keep the boy’s secret, or will she have to resort to breaking the oldest taboo on Botanica?

Another astonishingly imaginative novel from the acclaimed author of Slights.

Review:

Walking the tree, by Kaaron Warren (the author of Slights), is a fantasy novel set on the island Botanica. This is no ordinary island however; almost the entire space is taken up by one enormous tree. Small communities live around the coastline and depend on the tree for shelter, firewood and even medicine, but not without a price. Legends speak of ghosts that live within the tree and snatch the young and infirm.

Lillah has come of age and is now ready to leave her community and walk the tree for five years, learning all Botanica has to teach her. Before setting off, Lillah is asked by the dying mother of a young boy to take him with her. In a country where a plague killed half the population, Morace will otherwise be killed in case he has the same disease. But can Lillah keep the boy’s secret, or will she have to resort to breaking the oldest taboo on Botanica?

This is a story of emergence into the world, of transformation and change; a tale of outsides and insides, of surfaces and interiors. It is full of promise and potential—but perhaps inevitably in a work so suffused with such themes and imagery, it is also a deeply frustrating novel in both its surfaces and its interior.

The birth that begins Walking the Tree interrupts the testing of Lillah, one of several women in training for the role of teacher. Teachers on the island of Botanica are young women who chaperone groups of children on a five year tour of the other communities that ring the enormous Tree at the heart of the island. The word for world is Tree on Botanica: the great Tree provides life-giving food and shelter, tools and building materials; its giant leaves are used to collect rainwater. Those same leaves can cause destruction and death when they fall, and from the Tree emerge ghosts and other horrors.

The chief danger the inhabitants of the island face comes not from the Tree, however, but from themselves. In generations past a plague, Spikes had decimated this world's human population. The survivors who fled to Botanica learned from this calamity a deep appreciation for population limits and genetic diversity, along with a mortal fear of illnesses.

The Orders living around the Tree share some legends with the people of Ombu, and they are similar in many ways. But Lillah's journey is an exercise in culture shock. The ritual-driven societies in this book are very believable, in part because they echo the cultures of other real-life peoples. Reading Walking The Tree is like discovering lost tribes in the Amazon.

The pace is often sedate, with action that focuses on domestic themes such as food, births, marriage and gift-giving. However that's not to say this book is unexciting. There's always some crisis or intrigue going on in Lillah's life that keeps our attention. Lillah may not always be honest with herself, but she has the mind of an explorer and her curiosity makes her a captivating character. Her adventures can be explicit, though at the same time they're not in the least bit romantic.

This entry was posted on Friday, June 17, 2011 at 1:47 AM . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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