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Tree of Ages (The Tree of Ages Series Book 1) Kindle Edition
|Length: 328 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Fairly soon, however, the troubles began. (Note: what follows is SLIGHTLY spoiler-ish, but I don't reveal names or details.) The main problems for me lie in emotional inertness of the characters. People are described as upset, but they don't act it. If someone is sad, she might cry, but then the sadness simply goes away so that the next event can unfold. And these thin emotions mean that the connections between the characters make no sense. For example, the tree-girl is discovered by an old man, who takes her in and provides her with everything she needs, even though he appears to have almost nothing himself. He even eventually agrees to accompany her on her quest, leaving his entire life behind. This could have - and SHOULD have - been the beginning of a deep relationship. But the author never really gives any of her characters much emotional range, and so none of the characters develop real connections with others. This lack of emotions also makes the characters' motivations pretty incomprehensible. The tree-girl and the old man join up with a group of travelers. One of the travelers is kidnapped. No one liked the kidnapped woman (for good reasons) but they all easily agree to risk their lives to save her. Not much explanation is offered. Later, some members of the group betray others. This comes as a complete surprise, and doesn't fit with anything we learned about the characters earlier. But then the betrayal is reversed, and the betrayers and the betrayed go back to simply being fellow travelers and friends. There is so much inconsistency in people's actions, it makes every event utterly unpredictable.
I also found the characterization of the fairies (the Faie) impossible to enjoy. I think we're supposed to find them frightening. But mostly what they were to me was incomprehensible, again, because of the inconsistency in their respective motivations. One member of the Faie is initially reasonable and almost helpful, but then suddenly becomes threatening and then ultimately malevolent. This character shift does not unfold as a normal development of a complicated character, but rather as a random set of attributes that the author simply pulls out, depending on what her plot needs at the moment. I don't need bad guys in black hats, and good guys in white, but I do need to have some sense of where at least some of the people or creatures fit on a scale, at a minimum so I can know whether to be upset when they die!
Finally, I really didn't enjoy the overall plot. There are many plot holes, which apparently many people felt made them want to read the next book. I feel that, after reading the entire first volume, since I still didn't know what was happening, or why, I don't need to keep going. YMMV.
One common complaint I see among reviews is that "nothing" is "resolved" in this book. I agree, but I don't see that as a bad thing. Stories take on lives of their own; they grow and change during the writing of them. When you have a book in the "epic fantasy" genre, that story branching out into a series is kind of a given. It's not a cash grab - believe me, the real money is NOT in writing fantasy novels! To tell a story the way it should be told, an author often has to break that story into multiple books. That is the case here. I actually subscribed to KU just to read this series for free - and it was worth it!
So to the critics, I shrug and say, "get over it." If you want a standalone story, don't read a series. If you want everything tied up in a neat little package at the end of the first novel in a series...you're gonna have a hard time.
But if you DO want to delve into an awesome, epic fantasy series, READ THIS ONE. Seriously - it's worth it. I would love to visit this world and hang out with these characters. There's tons of myth, magic, party banter, and some great plot twists.