So, often I’m asked “who are your influences”, and a name I immediately go to is Zlipha Keatly Snyder. And that’s largely because of the three books of her Green-Sky trilogy: Below the Root, And All Between, and Until the Celebration.
This trilogy was significant to me for so many reasons. For one, it was very much the fantasy series that I consider my entry into the genre. Nothing had previously captured my attention as a fantasy world like Green Sky did. It was a glorious, ardent world of a city in the treetops, where the people could fly and glide from branch to branch. And it was a world with a dark secret.
The first book focuses on Raamo, a young man who begins his training as part of the elite priest caste, the Ol-zhaan. He’s been sought out to join because he’s especially gifted in the Spirit powers, which the Ol-zhaan are supposed to be masters of, but it turns out most of them have little-to-no ability in them. With two of his plucky youthful companions, he starts looking deeper into the dark secrets of the forbidden ground, which is supposedly populated by monsters. But when Raamo and his friends discover a girl on the ground, they learn it’s not monsters at all, but people, trapped underground.
The second book shifts perspectives to Teera, the young girl, starting with her inadvertent escape from the underground prison her people live in. They’re held in by the magically powerful Roots that are impossible to burn or cut. The Root was created by the Spirit powers, because those people had been banished by the Ol-zhaan to protect the true secret of Green Sky. You see, the people of Green Sky came from Earth, which had been destroyed in horrible wars. (See, it’s sci-fi embedded in a fantasy.) Two factions formed, one who wanted to tell the people the truth of their origins, and the other who wanted to keep it a secret forever, hoping that ignorance of their violent past would help them stay peaceful forever. The tell-the-truth faction lost, and they were banished. But now the truth is out and public, and there’s no hiding it… especially since the reuniting of these two peoples has reawakened the Spirit powers.
The third book does something unexpected. It’s all about the messy fall-out of trying to unite these people, and how it does bring about the very violence that had been unknown all this time. It then goes on to, well, kind of a downer ending, mostly about how saviors and messiahs aren’t always going to be able to patch everything up and lead the people into a golden age.
But this series taught be about how fantasy can be anything. Which is such an important lesson. If you can find them (which is apparently challenging to do), go check them out.