Title: The Trees
Author: Ali Shaw
Genre: Fiction, Adult, Fantasy, Magical Realism
Source: Net Galley (I received a copy of this for free in exchange for an honest review)
“There are no good men and there are no bad. Good and bad are just ideas, made up by priests and the power-mad. There is just earth and appetite, nothing more.”
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Those who follow me will know that I have been reading this book for a long, long time. Even though it was an ARC when I received it, it was released way back in March, and I’ve been trying to finish it ever since to get this review out there. But despite my leisurely reading pace, this book is well worth taking the time for.
“You can’t wait for the world to be perfect before you start living in it.”
Apart from the beautiful work of art on the cover, it really was the premise of the book that gripped me. One night while he is sleeping, the anxious and pessimistic Adrian Thomas is awoken by a rumbling, as from the ground bursts a forest – in moments, the world has changed. But this is not an ordinary forest – something lurks within, something ancient and magic that seems to be watching. Terrified, Adrian quickly teams up with nature lover Hannah and her computer tech son, Seb, who are soon joined by Hiroko, a feisty Japanese student. Each person must come to terms with this new world, where morals have shifted and only the strongest survive, as together they set out to reunite Hannah with her brother, and Adrian with his wife.
There is so much depth to this book, and the summary I’ve just given really only skims the surface. In terms of character development, Shaw successfully carries the four characters through a number of physical and emotional challenges, forcing each one to come face-to-face with their flaws. For example, Adrian must travel overseas to find his wife, but with their marriage on the rocks last time they spoke, will she even be glad to see him? As a group, they make an unlikely combination, but somehow this aids their survival. I couldn’t even tell you which character was my favourite – they all brought something completely different to the table. Saying that, I did have a soft spot for badass Hiroko, and enjoyed the Japanese references and her fox companion.
“Look the world in the eye, Carter had always said. It keeps no secrets from you.”
This book is very thought-provoking, and there is an almost post-apocalyptic feel to some of the scenes. Violence and panic are not uncommon, and there is conflict between what was right in the life before the forest, and what is right for survival now. Hannah in-particular struggles with this moral question, and it is horrifying to see such a bright and optimistic character fighting with the choices she makes. As readers, we are perhaps able to make the most objective judgement of all, but even I felt really conflicted about some of the behaviours I witnessed – it certainly opens the door for some great philosophical debates.
My only criticism really is that some minor plot elements were overworked, whereas some major plot features (like the huge magical forest) were incomplete, in my opinion. We still don’t understand the trees, or the magic they hold, and I feel that even though the ending is rounded off nicely, it needs a sequel to tie up those loose ends. We may never know why the trees came, but I would be interested to know what Adrian’s incredible decision at the end of the book means for him, and how that affects the rest of the world.
Star Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5/5)