Helen Whistberry, The Melody of Trees: 10 Tales from the Forest
For me a five-star book is something that either I want to read again or something that is so profound it makes an immediate impact. There are lots of ways that books can be compelling: a unique idea, an interesting set of characters, a complex plot, an artistic use of the English language and more. Reading is also a subjective experience, so what appeals to me as a reader may be very different for you. I read a lot for both pleasure and work but these short reviews are a way for me to show my appreciation for the work and the craft of the author of the reviewed work.
The Melody of Trees is a collection of diverse short stories where trees or forests play some role in the story. Each story is short enough to be read in one setting but unique and complex enough to be intriguing. The stories span from mythological to science fiction, some are delightful fairy tales while others are dark stories of ash, death, and darkness. ‘Forest’ is told from the perspective of Forest as an ancient god observing the life and death occurring within its boundaries. ‘Girl of Glass’ is the story of a witch’s daughter who makes a desperate magical bargain to escape her unloving home that requires a heavy sacrifice. ‘Revenant of High Lonesome’ is an interesting combining of fantasy and western themes as a gun for hire determines that a promise made is worth taking on the authorities of a faithless town. ‘The Melody of Trees’ is a story of two people who find themselves in an odd sort of futuristic prison where they must use their skills as an artist and programmer to find an escape. It is a story of the beginning of relationships and learning to trust, but also creativity and intuition. ‘An Invitation of Shadows’ is the story of a young boy who escapes a murderous father leaving behind his loving mother, but learns he has a special power and a difficult choice to make: to heed his mother’s last wish and flee or to return to attempt to save her and his siblings. ‘The Watcher’ follows a cranky elderly man who is living in a retirement home and finds his only solace in watching the field and the forest near the home, but when his environment begins to change in nightmarish ways, he finds that he is also being watched. ‘Written in Ashes’ is a story of doors that should not be opened, of warnings unheeded, and of a darkly magical curse that lies just beyond the normal world for those whose curiosity gets the better of them. ‘Flora and Milo’ is another magical story of a missing mother, an absent father, and two children who follow the animals into the forest learning who is friend and who is foe and the magic the daughter possess. ‘Bad Day on the Job’ is a delightfully absurd story of two hit men in a supernatural world of werewolves, monsters under the bed, summoned demons, ghosts, and a mob boss who crossed the wrong woman. ‘A Gnashing of Teeth’ is another story in a science fiction world where humanity is at risk of being consumed by an invading race of strange beings that resemble the ancient pictures of Seraphim, and a ‘wise one’ who provides hope for a group of survivors.
I found each of the tales engaging and the overall book a delight. I intentionally attempted not to give away too many secrets in my brief summaries of each tale so new readers can discover the strange twists that the stories include. The stories are just long enough to introduce you to a new world and an interesting set of characters, but each story still manages to be complete.
I just love the looks of that cover!