Tree Magic

Tree Magic was first published in 2017 and is Harriet Springbett’s debut novel. It’s a fantasy coming of age story about a young teen who learns that she has the power to control trees. It’s a stand-alone story, and seems unlikely to form part of any future series.

Rainbow Linnet does not have a particularly great or interesting home life. Her father died when she was little and now her Mum lives with Bob. Well, if you can really call it living. Bob shares her Mum’s love of music but doesn’t have anything good to say about her spiritualism. Most of the time they just argue and Rainbow does her best to stay out of the way.

It’s while she’s hiding out in her tree house that she first discovers her power – a deep connection with trees and the ability to control and shape them to her will. Sharing this discovery only with Michael – an adult who she trusts – she begins to explore her gift and becomes an expert on the different temperaments of trees. That is, until the incident.

All at once, Rainbow realises that her power can be abused. It’s not something that she can necessarily control and it can hurt people. When she reveals her ability to her mother and Bob, things get even worse. Bob is reluctant to believe what he sees and her mother embraces it, determined to find her a guru who can explain her place in the world. Soon, things start to become too much for Rainbow and her future grows increasingly unclear. Is she better off embracing her potentially destructive power, or denying it and leading a normal life?

This is likely to be a short review, I’m afraid. Tree Magic is one of those books that are really hard to review objectively and I don’t want to say too much about it as there is a lot that I could spoil. However, I will say that it’s probably not what you might expect from the blurb. If you go into this story expecting a magical tale, you will be left disappointed. Tree Magic is magical realism at its most vague, with Rainbow’s power being real yet ill-defined. While her discovery of this magic is significant at the start of the tale, it gradually fades from the proceedings as the novel progresses. It’s probably better to consider this book as a contemporary coming of age tale with occasional fantasy elements.

However, if you like philosophical novels, Tree Magic is a fascinating experiment. It’s a story about how our lives can be shaped by a single moment, much in in the same way Rainbow can cultivate and shape trees. Such moments can cause our lives to diverge in wildly different ways, depending on how we react and recover from the trauma. The book opens to Rainbow hearing an old Bishnoi story about a woman protecting a tree which has two different endings – one where she succeeds and lives, and one where she fails and dies. Young Rainbow wonders why a third version of the tale can’t exist where she succeeds yet dies, and this conceit reoccurs throughout the entire story. As the book branches, we start to follow the lives of two girls who lead wildly different lives. That is, until their stories finally converge in the book’s climax…

Although this idea has been done before, it’s still interesting in the philosophical sense and I do personally enjoy stories like this. However, the book isn’t without its problems. If you try to apply any sort of realism to the concept, the plot immediately begins to crumble. Again, I can’t really tell you why without spoiling the ending, but it’s a concept that only works if you don’t analyse it too hard. Really, you’ve just got to take this story for what it is. I’d also advise sticking with the story. While it’s initially quite confusing to read everything does eventually come together as you start to realise what is actually going on. The book is massively unpredictable and worth sticking with as its conclusion is, ultimately very satisfying. I say no more here – go check it out yourself if you’re curious to find out why.

In terms of characterisation, this book is actually incredibly strong. The two protagonists – Rainbow and Mary – are both incredibly different characters. Rainbow is hopeful and a little naïve, while Mary is bitter and pessimistic. Yet both of them felt completely real. They behaved and spoke like real teenage girls, with natural hang-ups and attitudes towards the authority figures in their lives. I found them easy to empathise with and especially grew fond of Mary, as she received the best character arc as she worked through her rebellious phase, her sheer confusion as to what she wanted to do with her life, and eventual discovery of her passion.

The secondary characters are also pretty great on the whole. Although we see them tarnished by Rainbow’s feelings (she has a particularly complex relationship with her mother), it’s interesting to see how her attitudes towards certain important people in her life change as the story progresses. This is especially apparent in Rainbow’s feelings towards her guru, Domi, and Mary’s to her adult role model, Mrs Bellamy. These relationships all felt very natural and also helped to illustrate how both Rainbow and Mary were maturing.

So, sorry about the shortness of this review but if I keep talking, I know I’m going to spoil everything. Tree Magic isn’t a novel that I’d recommend to just anyone. Despite the blurb, it’s not really a fantasy story. It’s more a philosophical character study – a coming of age tale about two girls who live completely different lives. While it’s not something I’m likely to ever read again, it’s a complex story with some greatly likeable teenage protagonists. If you’re curious, I’d certainly recommend giving it a try.

Tree Magic can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. melrosegreene
    Jul 10, 2017 @ 19:49:54

    Hi Kim, I just wanted to say I love your style of writing reviews- incredibly helpful and informative!

    Reply

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