In a debut novel, Dyer introduces an unusual fantasy world set in the different levels of a giant forest and plagued by social strife.
Canopy is a great city that spreads across the top level of a giant forest. Divided into 13 kingdoms, each devoted to a different god or goddess whose soul is constantly reincarnated into a human body, the world of Canopy holds itself carefully separate from the realms on the forest’s lower levels. The city basks in the abundance that comes with plentiful sunlight and shores up its power and wealth with the labor of slaves. Unar, an ambitious and fiercely determined teenager, escapes her parents’ plan to sell her into slavery and becomes a Gardener serving in the Garden of the goddess Audblayin. When the goddess dies, Unar finds herself passed over for promotion to a new level of magical power and service. Adrift from what she assumes is her destiny, she sets out to find the new reincarnation of her goddess and stumbles on to uncomfortable realizations about Canopy and her own past. The world of Unar’s story is complicated and sometimes difficult to visualize, afflicted with profuse but often haphazard detail. Careful descriptions of clothes and people and the various fantastical quirks of the forest feel like notes for worldbuilding that the story does not quite have the strength and momentum to knit together. Race seems to play an important role in the social hierarchy of Canopy, but the story hesitates to make a strong, or even clear, statement. It is unclear whether the Canopians hold themselves above the pale-skinned residents of the lower levels because of their race or simply because they have the privilege of cultivating tans.
An epic fantasy that builds an intriguing setting but never quite comes into focus.