Monday, 5 September 2011
Reviews of The Tree Singer
from Motley Press (issue 4)
The Tree Singer by Danny Fahey
Reviewed by Cran Herlihy
362 pp; published in 2011 by Dragonfall Press.
There is something about working with wood - a
sense of connection in the visual and tactile
exploration of grain and whorl; the scent of
shavings and resin; the dark red hardness of
jarrah, or the golden softness of pine. It is easy to
lose track of the time when finishing a piece by
hand; lost in the planes and curves when sanding,
or applying the coats of oil to penetrate and
preserve and bring out the colours.
In The Tree Singer, Danny Fahey has captured
and conveyed this sense of timeless connection.
Most of Fahey's light fantasy is a delight to read -
the voice fits the narrator's character extremely
well; and a world where the claim, "I sing to the
trees", doesn't lead to white jackets and a padded
cell is definitely a world worth visiting.
The narrator, Jacob, begins his tale as a teenager
blessed with a naive innocence not seen sinceWalt Disney was animating fairy tales for young
baby boomers. Jacob begins with little hope and
no dreams for the future, traits he shares with the
village in which he lives with his widowed
He introduces us to Simon, a stranger not born
but brought forth complete; a receptacle of lost
knowledge, prescience and the miracle of healing,
but without memory or conscience. It is Simon's
touch which removes Jacob's illness and plants
the dream of making the finest flutes in the land.
It is Simon who heals those most important to
Jacob, and who teaches the boy how to sing the
perfect branch from a tree. Simon is the
instrument of Jacob's happiness and success.
Of course, those wiser in the ways of the world -
any world - know that innocence and happiness
simply can't last; eventually, the other shoe must
drop. Jacob, years later a man in a city threatened
by plague and war, meets Simon again; a Simon
twisted and fouled, bitter at his own failure and at
the city which overwhelmed him. All those years
before, Simon had predicted that Jacob would
feel compelled to betray his friend. The
instrument of Jacob's success thus also became
the means of his downfall.
For Jacob, ashamed and alone, redemption is a
painful path finally found in three distinct
moments involving acceptance.
The few continuity issues and hanging questions
barely detract from Fahey's ability to write a
compelling story; the language, content and
production aim The Tree Singer at the YA