TITLE: The Trees
AUTHOR: Ali Shaw
BLURB: They arrive in the night: thundering up through the ground, transforming streets and towns into shadowy forest. Buildings are destroyed. Broken bodies, still wrapped in tattered bed linen, hang among the twitching leaves.
Adrien Thomas has never been much of a hero. But when he realises that no help is coming, he ventures out into this unrecognisable world. Michelle, his wife, is across the sea in Ireland and he has no way of knowing whether the trees have come for her too.
Then Adrien meets green-fingered Hannah and her teenage son Seb. Together, they set out to find Hannah’s forester brother, to reunite Adrien with his wife – and to discover just how deep the forest goes.
Their journey will take them to a place of terrible beauty and violence, to the dark heart of nature and the darkness inside themselves.
I have to confess it was the amazing cover that attracted me to this book in the first place. It deserves to be framed and put on a wall so that every time you pass it by you can pause and see something new that appeals to your eye. Happily the novel, The Trees, actually lives up to the cover and in many ways is equally appealing on a visual level. The descriptives passages immerse you in the forest setting without distracting in any way from the story itself.
This is basically a quest novel, which justifies the 500 pages, and takes you from somewhere in England to somewhere in Ireland. The apocalyptic setting is believable enough if you’re willing to accept the story as one of fantasy, myth and magic (if you’re not then you’re reading the wrong book) but without the over-recognisable elements of a true genre novel.
Adrien is as good an anti-hero as Thomas Covenant and despite his faults as a person, he’s close enough to ‘everyman’ to be a sympathetic character even when his weaknesses are to the fore. The rest of the characters are well formed and deep enough to make you care – even the teenagers and that was a stretch for me!
Another thing to note is the fact that, despite the justification to do otherwise, much to the authors credit the story doesn’t get heavy handed about the eco-issues that appear to lead to the imminent demise of mankind and the obvious destruction of our concrete legacy.
On a personal note, a lot of the time I cringe a bit when novels start out somewhere in the world and end up in Ireland. Usually, it’s the stage Oirish element that makes me sigh and roll my eyes but kudos to Ali Shaw for sparing me that particular cringefest.
Well written and thought-provoking. You’ll learn a lot about human nature by joining Adrien and Hannah on their trek across Britain.