This trilogy isn’t quite your standard trilogy because it doesn’t follow the same main characters throughout. Although the focal character is in the next two, she moves to the background; and the same happens between the second and third books. I really like this as a tactic because it means Dyer gets to explore the world of Titan’s Forest in much more complexity than might otherwise be possible – the three characters have such different roles in the Forest societies, and different motivations and personalities and so on. They interact with other characters in utterly different ways. But I also like that the three characters are all connected to each other, so we get to see family dynamics at play, and understand people from multiple perspectives.
I also like that none of the three main characters are particularly likeable; certainly not all the time. Don’t get me wrong – they’re compelling characters, and I generally understand why they think they have to do what they’re doing. But I frequently got exasperated with them for being selfish, or narrow-minded, or blinded by anger, or… other reasons. And this is a good thing, because it really is a fine line to walk to make me have a reaction like that but still be enjoying the character and the story overall. Dyer walks that line beautifully.
If you haven’t read the series yet, stop right here and go and do so: you really want to if you like complex societies and gods who aren’t that great really and live among humans, and quandongs and Australian trees getting even bigger than we let them get here, quests and revenge and family drama. Spoilers ahead for the first two books!
So this book is focussed on Leaper, the youngest child. He had a bit of a role in the second book but this is his chance to shine. And sometimes he does, but sometimes honestly I just wanted to shout at him for making such stupid, wrong-headed decisions.
Tides continues the process of exploring exactly why the gods are, and has some exploration of why Titan’s Forest society is the way it is. But it also travels further than the previous two books. I had expected that we would finally learn a bit more about Floor, since the other two books largely matched their titles… which should have been a giveaway here, since this isn’t Stories of Floor or whatever. No, our boy Leaper manages to go beyond the Forest itself. There have been wee hints that there is a world beyond the Forest in previous books, and now… well, now I know how broad Dyer’s imagination is for this world: quite broad, actually. So this third story is really quite different from the other two. While Leaper is just as selfish and self-absorbed as Unar and Imeris, he is forced to interact with even more and even more different people than either of them were. And the focus moves, for quite a part of the book, away from Canopy and its elitism to the larger world. Which was a bit of a shock, actually.
I really like the way Dyer develops her characters – failures and success, enemies and friends and lovers, flaws and strengths. The main characters are all well-rounded, and they all manage to grow, too – youthful selfishness doesn’t preclude mature sensibleness. (Happily.) I also like the way she’s perfectly happy to suggest broader issues and problems, which round out the world but don’t need to be fully investigated.
This was a fine conclusion to the trilogy. It doesn’t answer all of my questions but it answers enough; it leaves me knowing that the characters will continue to grow and develop outside of their story. The main story, at least, is complete, and that’s very satisfying.