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Tree of Ages by Sara Roethle

Tree of Ages by Sara Roethle
4.5
Book Name: Tree of Ages
Author: Sara Roethle
Publisher(s): Vulture's Eye Publications
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: March 1, 2015

Some books grab you from the get go with breakneck action. Others, with a lovable character in a difficult situation. In many, we are immersed in new, fascinating worlds which don’t follow expected rules. Oftentimes, we get a combination, such as Pee Wee’s Playhouse. In Tree of Ages, by Sara Roethle, we get: a tree.

Okay, it’s a sentient, self-aware tree named Finn, and the way the author filters the story through Finn’s perceptions really grabbed me and drew me in. Within the first few pages, our hero transforms into a young woman, and we share her experience of learning how to interact with the world as an animate, bipedal being. For our poor tree-turned-human, this trauma sets the stage for her quest to become a tree again, and the reader’s quest to find out who she really is, and how and why she became human in the first place.

Sassy and recalcitrant, and occasionally petulant, Finn carries the story with her narrative voice. She also has a stubborn sense of morality often lacking in real humans; and indeed, lacking in the rogues gallery of characters who join in on her journey. The sheer amount of backstabbing, double dealing, and betrayals would border on unbelievable if we didn’t see it on a daily basis in the U.S. Congress.

All of Finn’s ostensible friends have secrets, baggage, and ulterior motives, which make them feel like real, three-dimensional people. Each provides a piece of the puzzle as to Finn’s history and identity, foreshadowed in bits and fragments so that the interconnections reveal themselves in the end—like the movie, Memento, in its own deranged way. When re-reading parts of the story for this review, I realized how cleverly Roethle hid all the clues in plain sight.

Though generally not a fan of fae stories, I found the world fascinating. There are as many different types of fae as there are U.S. Congressmen: deceptive travelers who trade information; bloodthirsty winged beings who hold long grudges; ugly tree-like creatures; and several others. As we learn during the course of the novel, there aren’t many of these fae left because of a war from a century before. How and why that war started is one of the many questions that kept me intrigued from start to finish, as well as its implications on Finn and her friends.

The author’s writing style feels unembellished, yet flows with smooth cadence. The pace slowed in places, but those parts generally provided greater insight into the well-developed world.

Despite my overall enjoyment of the story, I do have two complaints: As is the case with many of the indie works I have reviewed, the author throws a dizzying array of said-isms. Actually, I think Tree of Ages breaks the record by a wide margin. Characters whisper, go on, begin, finish, lie, reply, ask, comment, mumble, explain, warn, observe, prompt, counter, state, announce, scold, and admit their lines of dialog before we even see the first “said” about a third of the way through the second chapter—about 6% of the entire book, if my Kindle App was not lying. Had these said-isms been sprinkled in, I don’t think they would have stuck out as an attempt to avoid using “said.”

The second complaint is that the story ends on a cliffhanger. It doesn’t feel as if the central conflict has been resolved, and that the arc remains incomplete. That said, given how engaging the story was, I didn’t hesitate in picking up book two to see what happens.

With these factors in mind, I am rating Tree of Ages 9.012 stars, or about the same as KFC’s original recipe.

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