2011; 428 pages. Book 1 of “The Cycle of Arawn” trilogy. New Author? : Yes. Genre : Epic Quest. Overall Rating : 7*/10.
Dante Galand has stolen a book. It is a holy book. It is a magic book. And it must be pretty important to someone, because they keep sending hired assassins to find him and kill him.
Dante would like to learn the magic contained in it, but frankly, it reads more like a history lesson. And there are parts he can’t even read because he doesn’t know the language(s). A trip to Narashtovik is in order, provided he can find somebody to keep the assassins out of his hair.
What’s To Like...
There’s plenty of action and plenty of magic. The White Tree is not really a Fantasy, since there are no dwarves, elves, dragons, etc. – but the story is sufficiently strong without them. It’s also a coming-of-age tale, which pretty much defines the target audience. There is a sprinkling of humor – mostly the witty repartee between Dante and Blays.
On a subtler level, the book has some powerful things to say about religious intolerance. The author also has fun with the “do the gods exist, or don’t they” issue. If you like anti-heroes, Dante’s your kind of guy – he assaults, steals, murders, and lies.
There’s lots of cussing and lots of bloodshed. But no sex. Indeed, there isn’t a shred of romance in the book. Some of us call that a plus. There are a couple slow spots – mostly when Edward Robertson opts to tell us the mythology of the various gods. The ending is okay, but puzzling. It’s hard to see how the sequel will start out. But I suppose that’s a hook to read it.
Kewlest New Word…
Kipple : the sinister type of rubbish which simply builds up without any human intervention. (curiously, a word coined by Philip K. Dick, so quite the anachronism here)
The man rolled his eyes. “Priests go in. No one else. That’s why they call it the Sealed Citadel?”
“Ah,” Dante said. “I thought it was just an expression.”
“No, this is an expression,” the man said, following up with something obscene. He walked away.
“Did you hear that?” Dante said to Blays.
“Yes, but I think you’d break your back before you reached it.” (loc. 3654)
“Rettinger says you did all right.”
“All right? I saved your pet’s life here,” Blays said, tipping his head at Dante.
“We’ll get you a medal.”
“”I’d prefer some whiskey.”
“Whiskey’s fleeting. Badges of honor last until you have to pawn them.” (loc. 5318)
The White Tree sells for $3.99 at Amazon. The sequel, The Great Rift, sells for $5.99. The final book of the trilogy is reportedly in the works.
“The denial of men’s desires is the gods’ way of saying hello.” (loc. 4320)
There are some WTF moments. For instance, at one point, Dante reanimates the skeleton of a dead mouse. For no reason. He carries it around in his pocket for a while, for no reason. Then releases it, for no reason. Then discovers he can “see” through the mouse’s empty eyes, and immediately saves the day thereby. Deus ex Machina, anyone?
And while I like anti-heroes, I do prefer seeing them get their comeuppance. Or at least, some moral enlightenment. Here, Dante gets away with everything, and doesn’t seem to be regretful about any of it. He’s a lot more powerful at the end of the book, but not a better person. But there are still two more books to go in the series.
It’s therefore tough to rate this book when none of the characters are “White Hats”, just fifty shades of gray. Evil fares much better than Good here. But hey, you can say that about Star Wars Episodes 3 and 5 as well. So, 7 Stars. Add one more star if you’re a teenage boy, and think it’s kewl when the blood spurts out of a severed arm.