I had a reviewer declaim the fact that a band of trees is able to separate a people. Surely folk will have hiked through from north to south, and south to north? Someone will have been adventurous enough to do so. No forest, impenetrable or otherwise, will keep the spirit of facing the odds at bay.
He or she is correct. Humankind will go where it is dangerous and forbidden. This mind-set is about challenge, and it is also pure rebelliousness.
Know this world Valaris from the inside out and you will understand why a band of trees separates them for three thousand years.
Firstly, we are talking a truly massive forest; not only does it stretch from the eastern seaboard all the way to the western, but it is wide and requires some serious fortitude to traverse.
Secondly, Valarians have been manipulated into fearing even their own shadows at times. The magic of a sunset is magic, and therefore forbidden. Imagine, then, a forest of magical trees. This was forced upon them, and therefore, when faced with a mighty band of trees that serves to keep them safe from the poisons beyond, the spirit of adventure is unfortunately snuffed.
Thirdly, the time factor becomes a barrier all its own. Truth has become legend, and conversely legend has become truth twisted out of proportion. Fact is, the clans in the north believe the land they inhabit is all there is to Valaris, while the south regards the northern peninsulas as destroyed. Add to that complacency, and the Great Forest is ever given a wide berth.
Let it be said, however, that a few have crossed, never to return to spread the word of continuing deception. Speaking up and denying accepted beliefs is considered sedition, and, much as it is with magic in whatever form it is perceived, leads to the hangman’s noose. Also, fear creates monsters; a fair few of the intrepid convinced themselves ghosts and ghouls tracked them and succumbed to fear itself.
So, yeah, it does seem a bit far-fetched that trees divide north and south, but this is Valaris and nothing is quite as black and white as that … or grey and every shade of green and blue in this case.