Saturday, September 20, 2014

"Walking the Tree" by Kaaron Warren

This is one of the strangest books I've ever read, for many reasons. It blends fantasy and sci-fi with a touch of paranormal, and the society it portrays is somewhat dystopian. It suffers from mediocre ratings on Goodreads, but I generally liked it and found it unique- something I can't say for half the books I've read.

Imagine an island anchored around a giant tree. Now, make that tree enormous- so big you can't even see the top. That's the basic topography of Walking the Tree, and the Tree itself plays a critical part in the story and culture of the people who live in villages around it.

The Plot: (from the back of the book)
'Botanica is the island, but all of Botanica is taken up by the Tree.

'Lillah has come of age. She is now ready to leave her community and walk around the Tree for five years, learning all that Botanica has to teach her. Before setting off, Lillah is begged by the dying mother of a young boy to take him with her. But if anyone suspects he carries the disease himself, he and Lillah will be killed.'

Although the story is told in a style reminiscent of young adult novels (i.e. plainer prose), after the first few chapters it becomes clear this book is intended for adults. Lillah is somewhat shallow for a girl of nineteen because she wants to walk the Tree mainly to have sex, instead of finding a partner or a place in one of the villages, or even teaching the children, which is one of the main points of walking the Tree. This is an unusual book in that premarital sex is okay and even encouraged (outside of your village to stave off inbreeding), and it's the young women who leave the village- the men for the most part have to stay put. Another aspect that makes it different is if the women do settle and have a partner in another village, after they've raised their children it's okay for them to go back to their original village without their partners.

The publisher (Angry Robot) marks this as fantasy, but the origin story (which is revealed at the end of the novel) clearly shows this book has roots in science fiction. But this novel is a bit of a genre blend, like The Wolf Gift, that makes it nearly impossible to say it's one thing or another- it's many genres, adding to its originality. Another thing I should mention is this book has a tendency towards horror- some people may not enjoy this story due to its content. As an avid ASoIaF fan, nothing phases me as far as the capabilities of human nature, but other people may prefer to not read of things like murder and human sacrifice, even if they add to the story.

Walking the Tree is a compelling read that at times tests the boundaries of weird. It has been some time since I've read it, but the main story has stayed with me. The worldbuilding is excellent, but the story falls flat at times trying to construct it. If you're looking for something genre-blending that will remain in your memory due to its singularity, this book may be for you.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a solid piece of unique science fiction.

Content: Ages 18+ for sexual content and violence (murder, mayhem, and sacrifice).

Page Count: 523 pages in my mass market paperback edition


  1. Wonderful review, I'm an avid fan of SOIAF too, as you can probably tell. I'm a little intrigued by the weirdness of the story.

    1. Yeah, from the cover and description I had no clue how much weirdness this book was packing. But there's something to be said for books that are almost entirely original. Kaaron Warren deserves a round of applause simply for that.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
      ~Litha Nelle


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