Wednesday, 27 March 2013
King of Trees - Carmen Webster Buxton
Title: King of Trees
Author: Carmen Webster Buxton
“King of Trees” is the latest novel by Carmen Webster Buxton, an author whose previous works I have thoroughly enjoyed. Due to the book’s title and synopsis, you could easily make the same mistake that I did in thinking that this would be a fantasy novel. However, it is more Science Fiction with Buxton utilising the principle of travel between alternate realities to provide her with the backdrop of a pre-industrialised society for more technologically advanced travellers to influence.
The story itself begins with several people ranging in age and skill set who decide they no longer enjoy the time line in which they live. Therefore, they find a way in which to travel from their own polluted world to an alternate Earth that failed to industrialise like their own. After making contact with the local people, they decide to try and “improve” the world in which they now live.
Several generations later, the people they influenced in the country of Albion have removed their King and now utilise a parliamentary system. Bardolph, the current heir to the lost throne now makes a living as a village Blacksmith. However, Albion is thrown into chaos when Chinese invaders arrive utilising guns, tanks and other advanced weaponry. Before long even the descendants of the original travellers known as the outsiders realise that they require the help of the King to inspire the people of Albion to stand up against the invaders.
This was another enjoyable story from Buxton that explores an alternate Britain that never got to embrace the industrial revolution. The plot itself had a good blend of excitement and action interspersed with politics, diplomacy and discussion. In addition, the writing was competent and flowed well which is something I have grown to expect from Buxton.
Whilst the story was entertaining there are still a few weak points in the plot to be honest. A fundamental one in regards to the unfolding of the plot is to do with the outsiders agreeing that Bardolph would somehow be the best option to extract a kidnap victim. I didn’t fully understand why they would agree to this over anyone else as they didn’t know anything about the King. Whilst it did turn out that being King did actually help, this more due to happenstance than anything concrete. This didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story but it did feel to me like Buxton was grasping at a way to introduce the King back into the governance of Albion.
In regards to the characters, Bardolph is on the whole a likeable person who tries to be noble and do the best for Albion. He does have some character flaws such as his obsession with a girl that causes him to betray his word. I liked the fact that Buxton tried to ensure her hero was not 100% perfect. However, this very flaw also irritated me a little as it is in regards to a relationship that I found rather childish. Considering, the rest of the time Bardolph was sensible, mature and noble it seemed a little bit far-fetched that he would act in such a manner as he does over the girl. I suppose love can drive people to do very strange things but it felt more like infatuation to me.
Overall, I found this to be a entertaining and fun story that introduces some interesting characters who on the whole are likeable even if at times they can make some rather frustrating choices. The odd minor weak plot point is also easily forgotten as you read the novel and I appreciated seeing that the story was nicely tied up by the end of the novel. If you are a fan of novels that explore the mingling of technologically advanced people with pre-industrialised societies then I suspect this book will be right up your street.