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The Dreaming Tree
C.J. Cherryh
DAW Books, 464 pages

The Dreaming Tree
C.J. Cherryh
C.J. Cherryh attended the U of Oklahoma and received a B.A. in Latin in 1964 before moving on to Johns Hopkins for a MA in Classics. Her awards include the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and Hugo Awards for her short story "Cassandra" and her novels Downbelow Station and Cyteen. She was Guest of Honor at Bucconeer, the 1998 World Science Fiction Convention, in Baltimore.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Stephen M. Davis

Ms. Cherryh can be justly proud of this omnibus edition of her two-volume series, composed of The Dreamstone and The Tree of Swords and Jewels. I found the writing in both volumes to be first-rate: the dialogue never feels stilted or corny; the characters are believable and have understandable motives; and Ms. Cherryh never overworks her scenes.

My only real quibble with the book is the ending, which the author reworked for this release, and which in my mind, at least, seems a bit mechanical.

There are a host of major and minor characters in The Dreaming Tree, and these can be difficult to keep track of, primarily because Ms. Cherryh draws on Old English, Celtic, and Welsh for the names of the work's people and places. The author has included a glossary of names at the back of the book, though, and I found this to be extremely helpful.

The Dreaming Tree is the story of the fortunes of Caer Wiell, a human stronghold with past memories of the Daoine Sidhe (the People of Peace), and the Ealdwood, abode of Arafel, the only Sidhe who has not yet faded from the world.

The book begins when Niall Cearbhallain, champion to the deposed lord of Caer Wiell, stumbles into the Eald while fleeing for his life. Arafel protects Niall from Lord Death, who hunts in these woods. Arafel shows Niall a path that will take him to sanctuary -- a sanctuary that Niall would gladly spend the rest of his days in, if outside events didn't compel his re-emergence into the affairs of Caer Wiell.

Many of the events in The Dreamstone are really background for the second volume in the work -- The Tree of Swords and Jewels. We learn, for instance, that the heart of the Eald is a tree named Cinniuint, from whose branches hang the swords and jewels of all the Sidhe who have faded into a different realm. The jewels themselves contain the memories of the Sidhe who wore them, and also seem to provide a link between the previous owners and any who wear the jewels later.

Ciaran Cuilean, descendant of Niall Cearbhallain, is given one of the jewels by Arafel, who recognizes that Ciaran is "fey," and that he will find the jewel of much use in the battle between Arafel, and the drow Duilliath, leader of those forces of men and drow who claim the dragon Nathair Sgiathach as their overlord.

It is the final battle between good and evil, and its aftermath, that I find less than satisfying. This doesn't dissuade me, though, from recommending the book. I am only saying that you may want to imagine your own ending to The Dreaming Tree.

Copyright © 1997 by Stephen M. Davis

Steve is faculty member in the English department at Piedmont Technical College in Greenwood, S.C. He holds a master's in English Literature from Clemson University. He was voted by his high school class as Most Likely to Become a Young Curmudgeon.

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