Kirkus Review of Tree Singer
BY JACCI TURNER ‧ RELEASE DATE: FEB. 10, 2021
A teenager learning to communicate with trees must search for the blight that threatens them in this YA fantasy.
Fifteen-year-old Mayten is an apprentice tree singer. While she has previously only chatted with trees—confiding in them as if to a sympathetic aunt—when she completes the Leveling Ceremony, she will be expected to take her profession more seriously. Mayten has started to feel distress emanating from the oaks and pines. Something is amiss in the forests surrounding her village and farther afield in the kingdom. The teen and her best friends, Tray (an apprentice traveler) and Cather (an apprentice healer), along with the surly Adven (a master traveler), good-natured Hunter (a woodsman), and Mayten’s loyal dog, Anatolian, must journey to the king’s castle and then onward to discover what is ailing the land. Mayten feels out of her depth (“She was expected to do a job she wasn’t qualified for”). Surely her mother—a master tree singer—should have gone in her place. Making matters worse, Adven’s attitude toward her is positively hostile, and people outside of her village seem to distrust and even loathe tree singers. Can Mayten uncover the dark history of her craft and save her beloved trees? Turner writes in the third person, past tense, from Mayten’s point of view, delivering a polished blend of inner thoughts, dialogue, and narrative descriptions. The fantasy world is well realized, with clear attention having been paid to its logistical underpinnings. At the same time, this information is imparted naturally and never in quantities that might overwhelm readers. Mayten is a relatable protagonist. She displays inner strength and determination but also suffers from common teen anxieties. Her quest functions as an allegory for growth and coming-of-age yet is perfectly enjoyable in its own right and pleasingly self-contained. The story moves swiftly and holds nothing back, not yoking itself to a sequel (although one would be welcome). The other characters have depth and personality, and Turner’s depictions of families—both Mayten’s and the king’s—prove a highlight. While the quest and its resolution turn out to be relatively slight, the human element is such that readers will fully immerse themselves in the story.
A direct and engaging quest tale with a delightful focus on family.