Friday 2 February 2018

Crossroads of Canopy by Thoraiya Dyer

Crossroads of Canopy by Thoraiya Dyer is an epic fantasy novel set in a world built on trees in a mighty, magical forest. It’s her debut novel and the first of the Titan's Forest series. Until the release of this book last year, Dyer was primarily known as an award-winning short story writer and I have read several of her short stories in the past.

At the highest level of a giant forest, thirteen kingdoms fit seamlessly together to form the great city of Canopy. Thirteen goddesses and gods rule this realm and are continuously reincarnated into human bodies. Canopy’s position in the sun, however, is not without its dark side. The nation’s opulence comes from the labor of slaves, and below its fruitful boughs are two other realms: Understorey and Floor, whose deprived citizens yearn for Canopy’s splendor.

Unar, a determined but destitute young woman, escapes her parents’ plot to sell her into slavery by being selected to serve in the Garden under the goddess Audblayin, ruler of growth and fertility. As a Gardener, she yearns to become Audblayin’s next Bodyguard while also growing sympathetic towards Canopy's slaves.

When Audblayin dies, Unar sees her opportunity for glory – at the risk of descending into the unknown dangers of Understorey to look for a newborn god. In its depths, she discovers new forms of magic, lost family connections, and murmurs of a revolution that could cost Unar her chance…or grant it by destroying the home she loves.

The setting and world building in this book were great, but it was the characterisation of the protagonist, Unar, that really sold it for me. Unar first comes to a goddess’s magical garden to avoid being sold as a slave by her parents. She quickly takes to learning magic and becomes convinced that she is destined for great things. And she is, that’s why she’s the protagonist, they’re just not quite the great things she was hoping for. Her arrogance leads her into a lot of trouble and a lot of things go wrong for her.

There were quite a few cringe-worthy occurrences — horrible things happening to not-horrible people — and occasionally I got annoyed at Unar doing something stupid, but for the most part this was a very enjoyable read. (And if Unar never did anything stupid, what room would there be for her to grow?)

Back to the world building, this isn’t a world living on a single giant tree, as I had first expected before I started reading. This is a whole forest made up of a wide variety of trees. A lot of them are distinctly Australian in flavour, which was a nice touch. The better-off people live in the canopy with the gods, while others eke out a less prosperous existence lower down, where there’s less sun and scary predators. There is also clearly a lot more to the god and magic stuff than has been revealed in this first book. I look forward to learning more about it in the sequel.

This was a very good read and I highly recommend it to all fans of fantasy. Readers looking for a different setting, that is very much not Medieval European, will find much to appreciate here. I am definitely planning to read the sequel very soon and I look forward to learning more about the world as we discover what comes next for the characters.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2017, Tor
Series: Titan's Forest
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from iBooks

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