Sounds a bit like a horror novel, right? Nothing, though, could be further from the truth.
So what's it about?
After the mysterious death of her father and the loss of her mother and unborn sibling soon after, Silva chooses to live in a small cottage set apart from the rest of the people of Southernwood. This life has worked well for her, but one day the tree that she calls Isleaf writes a confusing message upon its leaves. This wouldn't be a big deal... tree speech is always confusing, since these beautiful giants speak in riddles most of the time, but this message is different: part of it disappears soon after she reads it. This means there is no way to place its words in the Southernwood archives - something that is done with each leaf message that falls.
Silva recognizes that this message is important. There's a strange tree sickness attacking many of the trees on the island, and the trees are all nervous. The message spoke of something called a mazer, and mentioned a traitor. But what is this mazer? And who is the traitor?
As you've already figured out, this ebook is set in a world very different from our own.
Oh! And I found a book trailer, as well! It does a good job of matching the mood of the ebook.
Unlike most fantasies, the humans of Southernwood don't actually use magic. Rather, they're very much like us. There's one crucial difference, however.
They communicate with the trees.
The trees are sentient, have unique personalities, and guide the people's decisions. Indeed, people even bring their newborn children to touch the trees as a way to create a 'birth leaf.' This is very similar to a birth certificate, and shows important information about every given child.
The sickness that attacks the trees throws everything into upheaval. The population as a whole is extraordinarily edgy, and the council in charge of society is a complete mess. Indeed, the council goes through three different Legators (the equivalent of a president or prime minister) during the story!
I thoroughly enjoyed the trees, which speak by forming words upon their own leaves, then dropping them from their limbs once the message is completed. Humans speak to them through leaves, as well, using treequills to write their own messages, so that the trees can take the messages on through their branches, then into their trunks.
There's a great reverence for the trees, which I found to be quite uplifting.
Whereas we look at trees as tools, or as important pieces of an ecosystem, the Great Trees are at the heart of everything done within Southernwood. These people recognize the necessity of the Great Aspen, the Yew at Yewlith, and all of the others. Harming a tree is a serious offense. And!
Each tree has a specific personality.
Some are whimsical, and some straightforward. All are unique. The intricacy of these remarkable trees was no doubt time-consuming for Nolan, who truly breathes life into their roots. They feel wise, patient, and honorable... and completely believable.
Indeed, the trees are more complex than the humans.
While fun to read, oftentimes the characters felt two-dimensional. This is probably due to the amount of painstaking time spent on the trees. It takes a lot of work to make a plant feel like a person, after all. I imagine it cut into the time spent on human character development.
But I did enjoy the human characters.
Narration, as well, felt somewhat off. It seemed that there were many long sequences of prose that could have been cut shorter, while others could have been lengthened. Understand, though, that even though I felt this way, it still worked reasonably well.
Up to a point.
The ending of the story felt as though it came apart. On occasion, people acted in ways that didn't seem to match the background given to us within the text. There were various actions that felt unbelievable, and the the resolution seemed somewhat shallow.
These incongruencies don't really seem to occur until we get somewhere around 85% of the way through the book. Up until then, everything makes sense. Perhaps this has to do with the author becoming exhausted toward the end of the editing process.
I say this, because everything else was well proofread and logistically clean.
It's not until that same point that we begin to see proofreading errors, as well. Whether exhaustion is truly the case, or not, I don't know, but that's what my gut tells me.
If this is the case, going through the final pages and updating the manuscript would increase the overall beauty of this work.
Because, like I said, the complexity of the trees was truly fascinating. That same eye for detail, focused on the human interactions, would transform this ebook from a mere good to great.
The Mazer can be found on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.