Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Music and the Tree Who Loved Her

Title: Music and the Tree Who Loved Her 
Author: J. A. Bennett

Publication Date: 2016
Number of Pages: 398

What Goodreads has to say:

Green was a seedling as proud as any conqueror … so begins the magnificent tale of the indomitable spirit of one tree, who after losing everything, finds himself in the middle of a deep, intricate and wondrous adventure ...

Prince Green is a Prince of the Forest no longer. Living alone on the prairie, ignored and shunned by his own kind, he finds comfort in the gossip of the savanna grasses, and company in the stars at night.

He doesn’t realize that the ache under his bark comes from loneliness until he saves his mortal enemy’s child -- A newborn dragon maiden -- whose sweet kisses have the power to rebuild a shattered world, or destroy it.

What I have to say:

Music and the Tree Who Loved Her is a fantasy on an epic scale. Somehow, J. A. Bennett manages to weave together at least six vastly different cultures in a way that never feels jarring. The transitions from one race to another are seamless and never take the reader out of the story. 

Basically, this book has it all:

Talking, walking (yes, walking) trees
Shape-shifting dragons
Steampunk-esque gnomes
Creepy vampires
War-loving earth-dwellers 
Undead stuff
A sentient Mountain
(To name but a few)

Reminiscent of Norse Mythology, vampire legends, and epic fantasies like Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and EarthseaMusic and the Tree Who Loved Her concerns the coming together of a host of different races who have long been enemies, as they attempt to rebuild a post-apocalyptic world and combat an evil force bent on banishing all creation to the non-existence.

This story has some truly great characters. I especially liked Tongs Chin, a gutsy little gnome who has a talent for machinery and is not going to let anyone tell her how to live her life. Prince Green, the Tree of the title, is also a fascinating character. Some of the best-written passages in the book concern Green and how he views the world around him.

In fact, there is some really good writing in this book. Especially original are the descriptions of Mythic, the traveling Mountain trying to save civilization despite the fact that everyone (and everything) seems to be working against him. Since sentient, walking mountains don't usually figure in stories, I found Bennett's treatment of Mythic clever, fresh, and fun. 

And that goes for much of the story: in general, Music and the Tree Who Loved Her is clever, fun, creepy, and bravely original. There's some great humor - such as when the Stonecaste go off to war in unnecessarily fluorescent tanks painted by their gnome assistants - but there's also enough danger and creep factors to keep the reader truly invested in the story. 

Overall, this book was a really fun read, and at times the writing was startlingly good. But I'd feel remiss if I didn't point out just two things I wasn't crazy about. 

First of all, squeamish readers probably won't enjoy this book: there's a lot of blood and a lot of people puking. While I don't consider myself a particularly squeamish reader, and would never judge a book's quality by how much gore is in it, I did feel that this book had a little more blood than it needed - sometimes the violence felt self-gratifying. 

Secondly, this book could have used more proofreading: it had grammatical errors and some passages that would have benefited from greater revision. If the writing had been better all around and there had been fewer grammatical errors, I would have given this book a higher rating.

As it is, though, Music and the Tree Who Loved Her is a fresh, exciting adventure with a host of wildly different characters and an epic sweep. Told with an equal amount of humor, intensity, spunk, and imagination, this story will delight fans of epic fantasy searching for an adventure that feels both new and familiar.


Until tomorrow.

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