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Walking the Tree Paperback – 4 Feb 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Angry Robot (4 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007322445
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007322442
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,731,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"Like walking from a dream into a mythical land both familiar and delightfully strange. A tale of tolerance and survival, in a fascinating and beautifully realised world."
-Trudi Canavan, author of the Black Magician Trilogy

“Kaaron Warren is a fresh, amazingly talented voice out of Australia. You *must* read her work.”
- Ellen Datlow

Praise for “Slights”:

“With outstanding control, Warren manipulates Stevie’s voice to create a portrait of horror that in no way reads like a first novel.”
- Publishers Weekly (Starred) Pick of the Week

“Hugely and genuinely disturbing”
- SciFi Now, reviewing Slights

“Simply gut-wrenching”
- Jon Courtenay Grimwood, SFX

“Powerful stuff. So powerful, in fact, that my throat was hurting with my attempts to keep my emotions under control. I was completely drawn in, totally immersed. I felt ill much of the time.”
- Russell Kirkpatrick, bestselling author of “Across the Face of the World”

About the Author

Kaaron is an award-winning Australian writer of short fiction, and her stories have appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including the British Fantasy Award-winning The Alsiso Project, and the recent Poe and Haunted Legends collections. Other short fiction awards include the Ditmar Award (twice) and the Aurealis Award.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Niall Alexander on 25 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
It would be doing Walking the Tree a disservice to say, as I imagine many critics may, that it is a novel about what it is to be a woman. Criminally underappreciated Australian author Kaaron Warren certainly has much to say about the concept of femininity as we understand it, but her thematic concerns are substantially more diverse than that reductive description allows for. Walking the Tree is, firstly, a novel about discovery; about community, truth and history, amongst other things. Its concerns range far and wide, and though gender is among them, threaded finely through a narrative that takes place over the course of nearly a decade in the life of Lillah, who leaves her village a girl and returns an adult, the notion never overbears on the darkly fantastic tale Warren has to tell.

Botanica is a beautifully realised setting: an island dominated by a great tree, the circumference of which takes five years to traverse and around whose roots various Orders have sprung up. Every one of these communities in microcosm is unique; each produces a different thing, be it Jasmine-scented perfume, pottery or morning-after moss; each has its own array of fears and beliefs, each its own, individual story to tell; each reacts differently to Lillah and the school of children she and her fellow teachers accompany on their mind-widening pilgrimage around the tree. As they come to grasp the myriad differences between their home in Ombu and the handful of other Orders, so too do we.

The further Lillah progresses in her journey, the greater the reader's understanding of Botanica becomes; spread before us, as it is before her, lies the island in all its glory - and all its horror.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Amanda Kear on 14 Nov. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Walking the Tree is a science fiction book, but for the first three quarters you could be forgiven for imagining it as fantasy, as it is a potrait of a series of low tech communities with varied creation myths, fear of ghosts and no scientific understanding of a fatal epidemic - Spikes - that they all fear will arise again. It contains few science fiction tropes, but that doesn't spoil it as a novel.

There are lots of themes of 'Us and Them' in the book, varying from gentle (adult perspectives vs children's) to horrific (murder of strangers). The communities of the island all participate in the 'walking the tree' custom to promote genetic diversity and learn about each other's cultures, but are at the same time very insular, convinced that their way of life is best. The heroine, Lillah, is realistically flawed - she is trying her best, but can't help being resentful of her responsibilities or having moments of selfishness or wilful ignorance.

If you have the Kindle Edition, there is a bonus novella, which repeats the journey of the main novel, but from the viewpoint of one of the children.
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Format: Kindle Edition
A secondary world fantasy novel I enjoyed sinking into: lots of worldbuilding (bones! ghosts! creepy tree!), a good story and a gender set-up that’s not the usual projection of the 1950s onto the past.

Communities called Orders live around the Tree that takes up almost an entire island. Almost all children go on Schools: walking around the Tree, learning as they go, for the five years it takes for a full circumnavigation. Their teachers are young women, who each typically stay in one of the Orders along the way, ensuring genetic diversity. Men rarely move between Orders after school-age, instead enjoying power within their Orders, such as choosing the young women to be teachers. Women move between Orders as teachers, enjoying a privileged welcome into each Order and the freedom to choose where they stay (for the most part). Often, older women walk too. In all but the worst Order, women have access to contraception, their consent is respected and they are free to stay or move on as they choose.

This set-up does a decent job at disrupting the gendered assumptions of most secondary world fantasy, although it doesn’t quite dismantle and rebuild. The (most) women = mothers thread was strong, although a mother can walk away around the Tree without her children. Men hold what I’d generally call ‘political power’. There’s an echo of our gender imbalances. The echo isn’t strong enough to put me off. There are gay/lesbian characters (though the main character is relentlessly heterosexual), but I wish the book had reached the Order where many of the gay and lesbian people of the island live (or, say, normalised non-heterosexuality more so they don’t have to go to that one Order). It’s thoroughly binary-gendered. Walking the Tree isn’t everything I’d like to see in secondary world fantasy, but it’s a decent read and I’m glad I got it.
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