At the highest level of a giant forest, thirteen kingdoms fit seamlessly together to form the great city of Canopy. Thirteen goddesses and gods rule this realm and are continuously reincarnated into human bodies. Canopy’s position in the sun, however, is not without its dark side. The nation’s opulence comes from the labor of slaves, and below its fruitful boughs are two other realms: Understorey and Floor, whose deprived citizens yearn for Canopy’s splendor.
Unar, a determined but destitute young woman, escapes her parents’ plot to sell her into slavery by being selected to serve in the Garden under the goddess Audblayin, ruler of growth and fertility. As a Gardener, she yearns to become Audblayin’s next Bodyguard while also growing sympathetic towards Canopy’s slaves.
When Audblayin dies, Unar sees her opportunity for glory – at the risk of descending into the unknown dangers of Understorey to look for a newborn god. In its depths, she discovers new forms of magic, lost family connections, and murmurs of a revolution that could cost Unar her chance…or grant it by destroying the home she loves.
Published by Tor Books.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Crossroads of Canopy is Thoraiya Dyer’s debut novel, the first instalment in the Titan’s Forest trilogy. Dyer is a highly regarded author of short fiction, and her first foray into longer works has been much anticipated.
The world of Crossroads of Canopy is utterly unique. In this world, people live in a forest of giant trees. Canopy is the highest and most privileged realm of the forest, and it is subdivided into thirteen Kingdoms, each one ruled over by a living god or goddess.
Unar is a resident of Canopy, living in Audblayinland, ruled over by the goddess Audblayin. When she is young, Unar becomes convinced that she is destined to become the Bodyguard of Audblayin, and works with single-minded purpose to ensure that this comes to be.
The worldbuilding in this novel is absolutely incredible. Dyer gives the reader a complicated world in what we see of Audblayinland alone, and this world only deepens as the book moves away from Canopy and into Understorey below. There’s a definite sense that this book has only scratched the surface of this world, with so much more to be revealed of both Canopy and the lower levels of the forest.
Unar herself is likely to be protagonist who will divide many readers. She is not always someone who can be liked (which is absolutely not a bad thing), but she remains always someone who is fascinating. She is determined and strong and at all times, extremely human. Even at the times that it’s hard to empathise with her and the choices she makes, it is hard to look away from her. As with the worldbuilding, there’s a definite sense that the real depths of Unar have barely been revealed here, and there is going to be much more to learn about her in later books.
Crossroads of Canopy is the first in what is shaping up to be a brilliant and truly original epic fantasy trilogy, and is highly recommended, especially to readers who’ve burned on epic fantasy and are looking for a complex world filled with complex and interesting characters.