Source- Review copy courtesy of Capricorn Link
Publisher- Angry Robot
Publication date- 2010
Synopsis- An extraordinary island fantasy from the author of Slights. The island is the world, and the centre of the island is the Tree. When they are 18, each person must leave their home and walk the Tree. Years later, when they return — if they return — they will be changed. When Lillah embarks on her own journey, however, she never expected to deviate from the sacred path! and enter the Tree.
Review- I was sent this novel as part of a review package for Angry Robot and was particularly interested in this book because it was written by an Australian author.
Walking The Tree is a fantasy novel set on the island of Botanica, where the tree is the centre of life. On the island, when the women become of age, the ‘best’ are selected to be teachers to walk the tree with the children, it’s a five year trek. During the walk, they stay with various communities learning their customs, beliefs and attitudes towards the tree, which has a god-like presence on the island. The purpose of the walk for the teachers, is to find a mate and a community that they wish to start a family in.
The protagonist Lillah, is chosen as a teacher along with her friends Melia and Thea. But just before she sets off on her journey, she finds out she has a half-brother, young Morace who will be accompanying her on the walk. His mother is sick and asks Lillah to protect him. Illness is not tolerated on the island and he may be killed if he is believed to be sick like his mother.
Walking The Tree is both fascinating and bizarre at times. But what Kaaron Warren does so well is creating a vivid fantasy world that can be visualised by the reader. The novel focuses on the world and the concepts of spirituality rather than on plot or character development. Essentially, there’s not much happening at various times of the book, but as a reader I enjoyed following Lillah on her journey through the communities and wondered what was next in store for her. I particularly found fascinating the various belief systems of the communities and their differing views on birth, death, illness and relationships.
It’s a length novel at 488 pages but I read it quite quickly. Despite the slow-paced storyline I was completely absorbed in Lillah’s experience. Walking The Tree is a really unique fantasy novel with intense world-building and an intriguing exploration of culture and social structures.
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About the author: I’m an Australian writer currently living in Fiji. I wanted to be a writer from a very young age, and wrote my first proper short story at 14. I also wrote a novel that year, called “Skin Deep”‘, which I really need to type up.
I started sending stories out when I was about 23, and sold my first one, “White Bed””, in 1993. Since then I’ve sold about 70 short stories, two short story collections and three novels.
I’m an avid and broad reader but I also like reality TV so don’t always expect intelligent conversation from me.
More titles by Kaaron Warren:
This book was read as part of the AWW2012 challenge: