The third and final book in Mary Victoria’s CHRONICLES OF THE TREE trilogy, Oracle’s Fire is a worthy conclusion to the story started in Tymon’s Flight and Samiha’s Song, wrapping up the multiple storylines and giving closure on all the characters. Although the trilogy is classified as fantasy, it veers more toward science fiction what with its distinct lack of swords and sorcery, and use of religious sects, rudimentary technology and mystical visions to shape Mary Victoria’s imaginary world.
However, the trilogy’s most unique feature has always been its setting. Perhaps set some time in the distant future (or even in an alternate dimension) the entire story takes place within the roots and branches of a colossal tree. Much like Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Norse mythology, this tree is not simply mountainous, but universal. The characters’ entire culture and society is built around the significance of that which they live on, and the Tree makes up the crux of the story as various factions fight for its future.
The conflict of the trilogy lies mainly between a corrupt priesthood and suppressed minorities who believe in an alternative understanding of the tree and its relationship to those that live upon it. Both sides are controlled to various extents by higher powers, all with their own motivations and agendas, and each have their own methods with which to ensure the completion of their goals. While war brews among the canopies of the tree, various agents from both sides make their way down into the depths of the Tree, where answers to the mysteries that everyone has sought to unravel await them.
In the midst of this chaos are our two protagonists, Tymon and Samiha, cruelly separated when Samiha is thrown into the abyss and Tymon sent to a life of slavery in the mines. Refusing to believe that his love is really dead, Tymon plots his escape among the other slaves so that he may search for her in the very heart of the Tree. Meanwhile, his erstwhile ally Jedda is making her own way across the breadth of the tree in her search for Tymon, carrying with her Samiha’s final testament, and Tymon’s old enemy Wick is sent down into the legendary World Below on a secret mission of his own.
Another interesting aspect of the trilogy is that it is not divided along strict lines of good-and-evil; instead the conflicts can be described as corruption against innocence, freedom against control, trust and faith against fear and hatred. Spiritualism, philosophy and mysticism are at work, making the protagonists’ journey an internal one just as much as a physical one, as they learn that it’s not enough to change the world; they must change the perception of those living within it. Think the general atmosphere of James Cameron’s Avatar meets the religious/political wrangling of Frank Herbert’s Dune — a fairly broad comparison, but one that kept popping into my head during my reading experience.
Although there is room for more stories to be told in this world, Oracle’s Fire brings the major plot-threads of the previous two books to a satisfying, if bittersweet, conclusion. The characters are well-defined, the story is unique, and the world-building is rich without diving into irrelevant minutiae. Altogether, it’s been a fun and intriguing read, and certainly not what you’d expect from the usual fantasy fare.
Chronicles of the Tree — (2010-2011) Publisher: The World Tree rises up out of the seething clouds like a green mountain. All creation nestles in its green branches. There is no world besides this one… or so the people believe. Tymon grows up at Argos seminary in the lush heart of the Central Canopy, where science is a heretical pursuit and travel beyond the Tree is banned. But he yearns to break free of these rules and discover new horizons. When he meets a despised Nurian slave in the city baths, his dreams of freedomtake on a completely different meaning. Banished to a drought-ridden colony, Tymon falls in with a group of Nurian rebels and finds himself facing difficult choices. Fighting for freedom and power is not so enticing when it may mean betraying his own people and severing all ties to the world he knows…