Wednesday 15 June 2011

The Map of the Known World (The Tree of Life Book 1) - Steven Smith

Title: The Map of the Known World (The Tree of Life Book 1)
Author: Steven Smith
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2007
Formats: Ebook / Paperback

Available at:
Amazon UK
Barnes & Nobel
Lulu (Ebook Here)

"The Map of the Known World" written by British author Steven Smith, is pretty much a standard fantasy novel. Like a lot of fantasy novels I could see the strong influence of JRR Tolkien, this was especially the case because the journey of the main character Elowen across the countryside with a group of people helping her reminded me slightly at times of the travels of Frodo across Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings. However, in my opinion the manner in which the story is written was much lighter and easier to grasp than Tolkien's work.

The story follows the orphan Elowen who ends up being tasked with delivering a map to a group known as the Illuminati. This group are fighting against a tyrannical church that is destroying anything and anyone that goes against the will of its leader claiming it as heresy. Her travels are varied as she tries to evade both the minions of the church and other nasty creatures. However, she is assisted in her journey by various people; a fellow orphan, a pirate, an exiled prince, a wolf, a pixie and various other creatures and animals. The young girl is tested many times and faces many challenges on her journey but this assistance and her own bravery helps her through.

Steven Smith has created an interesting and colourful world that I did enjoy reading about. The various people and sights that Elowen sees during her journey actually help to slowly reveal and expand this world and its society in an enjoyable manner. The only minor issue I did have is that I felt the story got a little bogged down a little in the middle. This is in relation to an island Elowen and one her companions visit that goes on for several chapters and didn't really add much to the overall progression of the story beyond adding another character. It was the only part in the story that I just wanted to get past so that Elowen could continue with her journey and I felt that the character introduced could have been added elsewhere without to much issue.

The characters are all quite varied and some of them such as Elowen and the exiled Prince, Bo are very well developed. For example, I can truly understand Elowen's plight inside the orphanage and how it affects her self-belief at times throughout the novel. In regards to the secondary characters, they are developed enough so that you have a decent understanding of why they are acting the way they do. I do hope to see some more expansion of these secondary characters throughout the trilogy but this novel was mainly about Elowen and the author managed to create a character there that I could understand and like.

To summarise, I really enjoyed reading this book and struggled to put it down. I constantly felt the desire to turn the next page and find out what Elowen was going to face next and which aspects of this interesting world I was going to have revealed to me. If you enjoy a good fantasy novel in the same vein as JRR Tolkien's work, yet told in a lighter and easier manner then I think you may like this book. It can actually be picked up for free in Ebook format at the Lulu link I have posted above so don't be scared to give it a read and then maybe pick up the sequel. I have already started on the sequel and hope that it is just as enjoyable.


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