Sunday, October 3, 2010

The King of Trees by William D. Burt

book cover

The King of Trees
by William D. Burt

Trade Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Winepress Publishing
First Released: 1998

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Goodreads:
What do an old wooden box, a jeweled pendant and some mysterious, green-garbed strangers share in common? When Rolin son of Gannon sets out to solve this riddle, his adventures take him worlds beyond the walls of his little log cabin. With the help of some grumpy griffins and a long-lost prophecy, Rolin and his newfound friends battle a sorcerer and his underworld army; deadly snake-trees; batwolves, dragons and other mythical creatures. On their perilous quest for the blessed Isle of Luralin, they must trust the King with their very lives. In the end, they learn that “The greatest help oft comes in harm’s disguise to those with trusting hearts and open eyes."

The King of Trees is a fast-paced fantasy adventure that's marketed to males and females ages 8 and up. The main characters were all males, so I think it would appeal most to boys. Since the author used a fair number of infrequently-used big words, I'd suggest it for teens and up. The author also used made-up names, some of them very similar sounding. I had some trouble keeping track of who was who and what was what. Sometimes there were even two names for the same thing: like griffins were called griffins, but usually they were called sorc. There's a glossary with pronunciation guide in the back to help with this.

While I could see the influence of novels like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, the story was original. It was also action-packed and exciting, and the characters were fun and likable.

There were several times that I didn't understand why Rolin acted the way he did during a critical parts of the novel. For example, Rolin was curious and wanted to explore a new world but knew it could be very dangerous. He decided to just take a peek and immediately come back. He goes to the new world, then, without any explanation as to why he changed his mind, he roamed through a creepy forest, knocked on the door to an evil-feeling building, and shouted to see if anyone was around.

Also, on a few occasions near the end, I had a "where did that come from" moment. As in, we weren't told that Rolin still had an object with him. Logically, he shouldn't still have it and, if he did, he would've been using it earlier. But then he suddenly does have it.

This story is a Christian allegory. It's somewhat subtle at first, but in the second half, the allegory was very obvious and rather heavy-handed. At the end, the plot was being driven more by the needs of the allegory than by naturally arising from the characters or their circumstances. Also, the Tree of Life (the Christ-like character) frequently spoke verses found in the Bible, especially those said by Jesus. To have a tree--which was a being created by the Father God figure (p.35)--go from playing a Christ-like allegorical role to essentially being Christ bothered me. Anyone without Biblical knowledge will probably be confused by it since some of the quotes seem to come out of nowhere. Also, Jesus isn't a created being so portraying Christ as a created tree-being who then created humans was a rather critical bit of theology to portray incorrectly.

There were a few sketchy drawings throughout the book. There was no bad language or sex. Overall, I'd recommend it as exciting, clean reading as long as none of the above are problems for you.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
"Snitch boy, snitch boy, hair-as-red-as-pitch boy! Bee in his bonnet, bee in his bonnet, bees in the hive and Rolin's sat on it!"

Rolin jerked awake, tore off his quilts and rushed to the window. He saw no one outside except a few blue jays warming up for the day's chatter. An early morning mist still swirled among the firs and pines in the foothills of the rugged Tartellan Mountains, where Rolin's father, Gannon, had built their cozy cabin.

Rolin groaned and flopped back on the bed. He always had bad dreams just before market days, when he and his father went down to bustling Beechtown to sell their wares. Was it his fault he had red hair (though it was really chestnut) or that his father kept bees? And who could blame him for reporting the cobbler's sons to the constable for stealing chickens? As if that were not enough, "the Crazy Toadstool Woman" had been his grandmother.

Had been. Rolin screwed his eyes shut, squeezing out the tears. Several years earlier, first his grandmother, Adelka, then his mother, Janna, had died under mysterious circumstance, leaving Rolin and his father to mourn their losses in lonely bewilderment.

"Ho, Rolin! Sun's up and it's market day," boomed a voice into the log-walled bedroom. Rolin yawned, stretched and hopped out of bed. Market day! Already he could see the crowds of traders and travelers, vendors hawking wooden trinkets, and the food stalls set up in the square, with their mounds of candied fruits, toasted beechnuts, smoked fish, and box upon box of luscious winter pears. And he could hear the children's cruel taunts.

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