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Crossroads of Canopy: A Titan's Forest novel Hardcover – January 31, 2017
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“Sydney’s Thoraiya Dyer is an accomplished writer of short stories and her skills successfully make the leap into the complex fantasy world of this, her debut novel....The story unfolds slowly as Dyer parts the leaves of her world and allows Unar’s ambitions to germinate. The society and environment are wonderfully depicted in what is an engaging and beautifully wrought coming-of-age story.” ―Herald Sun (Australia)
“Readers will be delighted by Dyer’s polished prose and an exquisite new world of intricate mythology, rituals, and politics.”―Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Dyer writes with accomplished ease, her prose style evocative without beingneedlessly ornate....All in all, Crossroads of Canopy is an incrediblyaccomplished debut, and one I thoroughly recommend.”― Strange Horizons
“I am majorly impressed with Thoraiya Dyer's Crossroads of Canopy. A unique, gorgeous, and dangerous world, a stubborn female hero, and a writer to watch!”―Tamora Pierce
“A glorious botanical quest fantasy. Crossroads of Canopy is everything I hoped for of a Thoraiya Dyer novel ― vivid worldbuilding, complex characters and an evil sense of humour. It’s rare to find an epic fantasy that’s so radically different to anything else out there, so treasure this book, grubs and all.” ―Hugo and Ditmar Award-winning author Tansy Rayner Roberts
“For her striking first novel Crossroads of Canopy, Thoraiya Dyer reworks the stuff of epic fantasy in ways that seem organic, rooted in the natural world but just as true to human experience.” ―Locus magazine
“Recommended for readers who appreciate nuanced world building, as both Canopy and Understorey are
strange, fleshed-out lands thrown into turmoil.”―Booklist
"Crossroads of Canopy has everything you expect from a great epic―quests, fearless warriors, gods born again―but all is transmuted, through the rich and vivid original setting, into something entirely new." ―Brian Staveley, author of The Last Mortal Bond
“Dyer presents a rich, brutal, fascinating world and an unforgettable heroine.” ―Ilana C. Myer, author of Last Song Before Night
“A remarkable debut. What a delight to read a fantasy so different from the mainstream and so beautifully realised.” ―Juliet Marillier, winner of the Aurealis Award and the Alex Award
“A stunningly original debut fantasy set in a lush and deadly treetop realm, amidst the kingdoms of thirteen relentlessly reincarnated gods, where disobedience is punished by a draining of magic and nobody lives who falls.” ―Cat Sparks, author of Lotus Blue
“Imaginative, original, inclusive – and fast-paced and exciting. Go get it and read it. Maybe twice.” ―Pamela Freeman, author of The Castings Trilogy
"Dyer's writing seamlessly melds a lush and layered canopy setting and a complex magical culture to form a unique fantasy world, filled with memorable characters in constant jeopardy. Unar, a girl on the brink of womanhood, is at the heart of the tale. Feisty, opinionated, certain of her own destiny, she's a tough flawed heroine, one readers will not easily forget." ―Glenda Larke, author of The Stormlord Trilogy and The Forsaken Lands Trilogy
"Dyer is a writer of immense talent. Her powerful, distinctive voice makes Crossroads of Canopy a fully immersive read, so well-written and believable it will have you checking to see if the realms of Canopy, Understorey and Floor really exist." ―Kaaron Warren, author of Walking the Tree
“Thoraiya Dyer has woven a world of gods and magic, a merciless forest where the slightest misstep can send the unwary, the unworthy, or the simply unfortunate plunging to an unremarked doom. Guiding us through the heights of this remarkable place is a young woman, Unar. Scrappy, complex and surprisingly compassionate, she must fight to establish a place for herself among the trees. If Crossroads of Canopy explores the cost of caring, it also examines the even higher price of indifference. It is a riveting novel.” ―A.M. Dellamonica, author of A Daughter of No Nation
"A wonderful, magical, poetic, tragic novel...a major achievement." ―Jenny Blackford, World Fantasy Award judge, author of The Priestess and the Slave
"The book is quite marvelous. Tons of cultural richness. Complex and casually cruel...Thoraiya Dyer is the writer I most want to infect people with." ―Anna Tambour, World Fantasy Award-shortlisted author of Crandolin
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However, through helping those she shouldn’t through her jealous yet kind heart, she finds herself low in talent on the day the Gardeners are selected to rise through the ranks, and she’s left behind as her closest friends are chosen instead. From here, Unar focuses on other things instead – following her deepest instincts to do what’s right, and we get to see so much more of the small garden that’s been her home for the last few years of her life.
This is an excellent book because of Unar herself, who is a complex and believable character because her flaws are evident, and tries to do her best even when it goes against the laws of her land or otherwise, as long as it’s what she believes has to be done for her own conscience. Though sometimes, yes, she does act selfishly. Her friends also manage to follow the rules and try to lead Unar correctly, but they also find themselves motivated by their friendships instead at times, which is more believable than in other books how you see them suddenly changing utterly for their job.
This is a character driven story, and it’s beautiful in its landscape and the creatures that fill the backdrop. The characters surprise you at times, but a deep love and/or responsibility drive them also, and it’s this that you’re left with at the end. The action keeps you guessing and it all clashes together at the end in a huge tumult of emotion, how unfair yet just life can be, and so many other things. I am now desperate for book two to see where Unar finds herself next, and what will become of a character she meets right at the very end – which seemed the cruelest yet enticing barb of all. Many claps for Dyer for pulling that off!
This is first in a series, to be released at the start of 2017. Highly recommended – I must admit, I’ve been left in a bit of a daze after finishing it. It’s been a long time since I’ve been basically drunk off finishing a book – I think I need a lie down!
Anyway, let me start with the protagonist. She is anti-hero. She is driven but selfish, and has a very grandiose opinion of her part in the hierarchy of life. When faced with the realization that she is not The Chosen One, she goes into self-hate and this was painful for me to read. I wanted her to pull out of it, because she did have a destiny --- just not the one she envisioned. However, she couldn't get past it and it dogged her all the way to the end.
The world building is great. I felt like I was in the forest, smelling the muck and the monsoon. And I was fascinated by the strata of "people": the Canopy where the thirteen gods dwelled and protected the Canopians; the Understoryans who wanted to overthrow these gods; the Floor whose people we never meet, probably because it's hard to exist where the sun did not penetrate and monsters live. This is the shining glory of this book.
The plot and storyline kept me in suspense until the heroine's character "growth" started to make my eyes roll. I really just wanted her to snap out of it.
Other characters did have development, like her friend and fellow Gardener Oos. Aoun, not so much. She came to the Garden with him as children, and he became her sexual fascination in a one sided lust/love. I am still confused about the ending in terms of her relationship with him.
Also, the ending felt like a video montage of seventeen years that passed after the climax. I don't want to give it away. I just think it was an interesting device, and I don't think all loose threads were tied. For example, the reason for the Understoryans wanting to overthrow the new gods were never fully explained. What is wrong with the old gods? This is the backbone of their society and its never explained.
Do I recommend it? Gosh that's hard to answer. I really like the world building, and Dyer can certainly write a great narrative. She's not afraid to write about sex. It's just so hard to relate to the protagonist, and again the loose threads. If you pick it up, do let me know what you think.
Top international reviews
The world that Dyer has created is vivid, detailed, enthralling, and complex. The world building was perfect - a brand new fantastical world revealed its mysteries to me as the story progressed without it ever feeling like I'd been 'info dumped', and without ever feeling inadequate either.
And the world that has been created here is quite unique. Not only because of its physical location in amongst the treetops of a tropical world, but also because of the interaction of the gods with the humans, and the way the gods' powers work and filter through to their servants, etc. I didn't read this book and think 'wow this is similar to..', because I haven't ever read a book quite like this before. So many of the ideas here are fresh.
The only reason that I have taken off half a star is because it took me a really long time to warm to the main character. As in... I really didn't start to like her until the end of the book. And I know that I shouldn't expect perfection from main characters, because in real life we all have many, many flaws, and the more honest we are with ourselves the more flawed we know ourselves to be but... I found it hard to relate to her. (Or perhaps it's more honest to say that her flaws are so human that I didn't *want* to be able to relate to her...) I can see by skimming through other reviews both here and on other sites that people's opinions on Unar vary widely, and I think that's to be expected. You will just have to decide for yourself.
This was a really enjoyable book, and the ending has left promises that make me think the next will be even better. Thankfully, book two is out, and I've already downloaded it - I'll be starting just after I finish this review :)
Ps, the audiobook version is also great - I half read, half listened to this story, and enjoyed both equally.
This is a beautifully written debut with a stunning, unique setting; the botanical research really shows, here, and Australians will enjoy the real flora and fauna which I imagine is viewed as fantastic at the other side of the world. Quite a different world to anything I've seen in epic fantasy before.
I also enjoyed that it was in many ways a twist on a classic epic fantasy and coming-of-age plot: our hero comes from poor/abusive origins but has potential for great magic - but in this version the hero is not reluctantly thrust into their quest/destiny but rather makes a series of active choices which drive the plot. God, that is refreshing. I'm seeing in other reviews that Unar is viewed as unlikeable . . . look, grain of salt here, as what she is is cocky/confident in her own abilities and overshooting her own destiny and desires, something that's pretty casually and widely regarded as positive in male protagonists but somehow a negative in female ones. She has a high opinion of herself, yes, but since virtually all the conflict and action in the book is driven by her choices and her choices are, largely, motivated by a desire to help someone else to her own detriment, I find it difficult to regard her as unsympathetic.
There's also a lot to say in this book about class and oppression in society, and the prose is excellent, making this fall on the 'literary' end of the spectrum, but there's also cool magic, wonderful settings and tantalising glimpses of the broader world (we only see a fraction of the various different kingdoms of Canopy in the first book, but looking forward to more in the subsequent books) - plenty to keep the story rolling along for those who are in it for the plot. :)
Oh, I should say because it's obviously something that bothers a number of people that if you're squidgy about sex scenes there's quite a few of those and possibly some phrases that are going to skeeve you out a bit. Just skim past 'em.