On the face of it, ‘Crossroads of Canopy’ begs comparison to Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s classic ‘Below the Root,’ and the more recent ‘Updraft’ by Fran Wilde. All three novels feature a culture that lives in the treetops, with a literal ‘underclass’ segregated to the forest floor, strong themes of social justice and a controlling religion, and an element of gliding between trees (always a dangerous activity.) However, aside from the similarities, I thought this book was quite different in feel.
Our protagonist, Unar, has a background of harsh poverty, and is traumatized by the loss of her beloved baby sister. When she hears her parents discussing selling her into slavery, she suddenly feels a convenient “calling” to religion, and presents herself at the door to the temple of the goddess Audblayin. Coincidentally, her ‘calling’ seems to not be entirely spurious, and she is accepted as a devotee to this fertility goddess. However, she’s a less-than-obedient initiate, willful and rebellious. Although she’s never cared much for anyone besides herself and her sister, her near-escape from slavery has left her with a chink in her shell where empathy for the slaves of the temple sneaks in. Unar may be an unlikely candidate to campaign for justice and to change the structure of her society – but that’s just what it looks like she might end up being.
The plot is fairly standard: coming-of-age, and awakening to the problems of the world around one – but the setting and the worldbuilding elevate it above the average. I’ll be happy to return to this world when the sequel is released.
Many thanks to Tor and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are unaffected by the source of the book.