Tymon's Flight by Mary Victoria
Review by Ryan Lawler
Fantasy Book Review Young Adult’s Book of the Month, November 2011
The World Tree rises up out of the seething clouds like a green mountain. All creation nestles in its green branches. There is no world besides this one… or so the people believe.
Tymon grows up at Argos seminary in the lush heart of the Central Canopy, where science is a heretical pursuit and travel beyond the Tree is banned. But he yearns to break free of these rules and discover new horizons. When he meets a despised Nurian slave in the city baths, his dreams of freedom take on a completely different meaning.
Banished to a drought-ridden colony, Tymon falls in with a group of Nurian rebels and finds himself facing difficult choices. Fighting for freedom and power is not so enticing when it may mean betraying his own people and severing all ties to the world he knows…
Synopsis sourced from the publishers website (HarperCollins – Voyager)
Sometimes in fantasy you will come across a hidden gem, a book that you cross paths with having heard absolutely nothing about it, a book that you were unprepared for that completely blows you away. I have been very lucky having found quite a number of these hidden gems in the past twelve months, but of these hidden gems few can compare to Tymon’s Flight by Mary Victoria, a book that has taken a remarkable idea and complemented it with one of the most engaging stories I have read this year.
Let me start with the remarkable idea. Mary Victoria has set her story in a tree, but what makes this so remarkable is that the entire known universe revolves around that tree. There are no other trees, just other canopies of the same tree. There is no globe beneath the canopies, only a seething void which the inhabitants refer to as ‘hell’. The lore, the rich history, the magic system, religion, commerce and trade, poverty, racism and segregation – Victoria has built a complete world in the image of our own where all these familiar fantasy themes and tropes exist, slightly modified with tree specific physics, metaphysics, and terminology where required. The tree based terminology used here is rather novel, and the way in which Victoria employs it, coupled with her emotive yet efficient writing style, makes the story feel natural and much easier to read than I thought it would be. The level of detail and world building here is astounding, and along with the solid writing I think it would be enough to carry almost any story.
Luckily for us, Victoria backs up her world building by telling a well paced and engaging story that feels familiar through both the use of familiar fantasy tropes and parallel elements from our own world. The World Tree is dying, the bare branches in the Eastern Canopy have not seen anywhere near the rainfall they require and their mining operations have robbed the limb of the sap it needs to retain its health. The people of the Central Canopy control all the water rations going to the Eastern Canopy, and believe that only by sacrificing people of the Eastern Canopy can they atone for what they have done and breath life back into The World Tree. And behind it all is something much more dark and sinister, fuelling this divide between the canopies in an effort to achieve its own objectives. This story on the impact of industry to the climate and environment, and the way in which Victoria plays with religious fundamentalism and fanaticism is all very relevant to the reader considering the impact these elements are having on our own society. It creates a personal connection between the reader and the story which made it very easy for me to become immersed in the story for hours at a time. The mysterious elements are also a nice touch, and Victoria does a great job of resolving as many as she needs to tell a well rounded story, while leaving some very intriguing threads unresolved as a launch pad for the rest of the trilogy.
The characters in Tymon’s Flight are solid, without being spectacular. There is a nice variety between all the characters and they are all doing the right things at the right times, but it seems that they are for most part just along for the ride. We get to experience this story through the title character, Tymon, a young man from the Central Canopy who has almost completed his religious studies and is ready to earn his keep in the central canopy. Through a number of ill conceived decisions and blasphemies, he is sentenced to serve out the rest of his religious tenure in one of the Eastern Canopy outposts. He is very much a stock standard hero, a young man who has adversity after adversity piled on top of him until he finally makes the decision to rise above and fight for what he believes in. Samiha is a young girl from the Eastern Canopy who befriends Tymon at various stages during the story and is more than what she seems. She provides a good foil for Tymon, the voice of reason where Tymon is the voice of impulse and opportunity. As the layers start to unfold and we get to see more and more of Samiha, she really starts to grow into that the role of the heroine and stand out as a character to be reckoned with. The rest of characters were likeable enough, but with the exception of Galliano I really didn’t care that much about what happened to these characters individually. I was more caught up in the story, caring about the plight of these people as a whole rather that the individual parts making up the whole.
Tymon’s Flight is a fantastic read, one that does a great job of refreshing some tired tropes with some truly unique ideas, one that uses our own current events and issues to provide some great pieces of social commentary. This is the best novel I have read this year and it is very easy for me to recommend this story, not just to fantasy readers, but to readers of all genres.
Violette from France
I couldn't agree with you more, Ryan. It is a fantastic read, and for all the reasons you mentioned as well as one or two more. I particularly like the various dialects and languages of the Tree, the powerful quotes from imagined source texts, the haunting music of the songs, the subtle and sometimes mocking lyricism of the poems. It is a world so credible that you leave the Four Canopies like a traveler rather than a reader. You really feel you've been there, seen the bobbling frogapples and the rows of barleyvines, heard the seething tremours of the Storm below. If you give 9.6 as a rating for this book, wait till you read the sequels...
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