Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Trees - Ali Shaw

Book Details

Book Title: The Trees

Author: Ali Shaw

: Bloomsbury 2016

Source: Library

Page Count: 488

Format: Hardback

Genre: Fantasy

Audience: Those who like a novel to sink into and stay for a while.

Buy? Read? Avoid?: If you going to buy this then the Hardback is gorgeous.

Summed up in one word: Natural

Author Bio: An award winning author with three books. The Trees, The Man Who Rained and The Girl With Glass Feet. Ali Shaw has studied English Literature and Creative Writing, he uses them both to full affect!!

First Impression: This is an experience. Like I said in the Audience section of this review, this is a book that you settle into and go along for the ended, mystical and infuriating at times. I did indeed enjoy my time within these pages, Ali Shaw to me, is a bigger picture author. Managing to pull of this 'end of the world as we know it' piece of fiction really well is an applause worthy feat. But there are a few niggles... 

Before the trees came, Adrien Thomas was nothing much. Hiding in his creature comforts and ignoring all his problems, hoping they will deal with themselves. After the trees came Adrien Thomas was in deep trouble. 

Erupting from under the concrete of civilisation, the trees took everything from humanity. Covering the whole of Adrien's town and beyond, the forest took away machines, internet, transport, easily obtainable food and many more of the things that we take for granted everyday. This apocalyptic event was a curse for many. but a blessing for a happy few. Hannah believes the trees have come to save humanity and wipe away all the unnecessary items and habits that get in the way of our true nature. 

Adrien crosses paths with Hannah and her teenage son Seb when they set out travelling west to find their families. Adrien needs to find his wife who is in Ireland on a work trip, Adrien believes that she will have all the answers he needs. Hannah needs to see her brother, growing up they both dreamed of the day when nature took over and ruled the world. Believing that Hannah's brother will be able to teach him to master the forest, Adrien follows her west. As it turns out, nature has its own plans for us and the remaining survivors will have to face the tests that the trees have prepared for them.


Story: This is a big and bold story that takes readers for a wild ride (excuse the pun). A perfect balance of beauty and violence, The Trees is a deep, rich and frustrating tale of the end of the world. There are no explosions or machines to end the world in this book, the world crumbles in the hands of the dense, vibrant and unending forest that erupts from underneath civilisation. The story revolves around Adrien who is travelling to his wife in Ireland and Hannah & Seb who are travelling to see Hannah's brother. Adrien tags along with Hannah as she understands the forest and how to survive much better than he ever could. This forest is a blessing and a curse to society and I enjoyed how that emotion was threaded through this story. As events continue, mysterious and mystical creatures called 'whisperers' start to bother Adrien and make him believe he is losing his mind. (He is the only one who can see them...). This mystical element to the story definitely has its place and does not taint the effect of the story, it enhances it instead. The group pick people and animals up on their travels and everyone in this tale loses plenty. The pacing of this story is slower than I usually prefer but the quality of the world that Ali Shaw has created stopped me from getting to hung up on how fast the events occur.

Characters: Some readers may disagree with me here but I truly believe that these characters are complex and at times frustrating. Adrien is the star of this tale, his transformation throughout this story is one of the most notably qualities. The other highly notable part of this tale is the forest, which is as much of a character in this story as any human. The forest shows fear, anger, pity, pain and love. Adrien's character works well when he is interacting with Hannah. Hannah is a child of the forest, though her son is a child of technology and this pisses her off no end. This is a strong band of characters, everyone goes through their various stories alone and as a family. My favourite character has to be Hiroko, a Japanese teenager who is in England on a school trip. She is badass, naive, angry and very lonely, but she has the most to reveal and gain from joining this family.

Themes: There are some great themes in this piece. Religion pops up here and there. Madness too. Family is one of the main themes, alongside nature/human nature. The contrast of themes pulls the reader about a bit, going from murder, to beauty and back to insanity. I don't think there are any themes here that I disagree with or find unnecessary. Even the mystical forest parts sat well with me and brought a tear to my eye. 

Likes: I enjoy the fact that this was a story about overcoming personal and societal issues. It was also a very comfortable read, writing style was not overpowering. The ever-changing strengths and weaknesses of the group was also a high point in my opinion as it stopped the reader from making endless prediction of the outcome of this story.

Dislikes: I did not like that attitudes of the main cast when this story began... I got annoyed at both Adrien and Hannah, they acted like children and it was very frustrating. I also dislikes the fact that they did not really explain why the trees came, they touched on it but even that made little sense...finally there is plenty of unnecessary violence in this book, mainly towards the end, it was infuriating, it did not advance the plot. Of the two halves of the ending in this book, one was glorious and it really made me smile. The other was ugly and made no sense to me, it seemed rushed and tacked on to give a sense of a showdown ending...(the glorious ending totally makes up for this discrepancy)

Rating: Overall I really think this is a quality book. The author has written two others that are now sat on my shelf waiting to read because this book installed a high level of faith in his writing. If you pick this up, be ready go on a long, arduous and emotionally journey of discovery, change and human nature. Ali Shaw has a fascinating mind and channels that well into his work, though maybe he should try his hand at graphic novels! I would pay good money to see that! Give this book a go and tell me what you thought of it.


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