None of this comes across as cartoonish, which is a testament to the novel’s psychological acuteness and finely rendered detail. The Adepts are wracked with doubt as they introduce some of the most oppressive aspects of pre-apocalyptic cultures, and the forest—the volatile, mysterious force at the center of the novel—seems ambivalent rather than purely good or evil.
There are moments when Old Green World veers into a kind of allegory about the Old People. I’m allergic to allegory myself, but I suspect that’s where I differ from many hardcore fans of fantasy fiction. To be honest, I found these moments unsatisfying partly because I longed for the specificity and psychological insight of the rest of the story, and partly because they stubbornly resisted my attempts to map them onto a particular environmental or political agenda.
The world of Old Green World is neither completely dystopian nor completely utopian. The same society that enforces primogeniture (and thus wrenches Albert and Thomas from each other’s arms) also seems to celebrate certain kinds of gender diversity. In the latter half of the novel, we are introduced to Niall, a renegade adept who might be called a trans man in twenty-first century parlance. Niall’s evolution alongside Albert hints at more gender permutations to come as the story continues to unfold.
Old Green World ends with a moment of idyllic-yet-fragile queer domesticity. Craft has indicated that this book is the first installment of an ongoing series. I, for one, am eager to find out what will happen to Albert, Niall and all the rest.