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VINE VOICEon 16 July 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Something about the story-structure of Eyes of a King is decidedly strange, but not necessarily in a bad way.

It is two stories in two different world (one of them ours) intertwined somehow through a combination of magic and a special book. The protagonist is Leo a 15 year-old living in a kingdom whose king was usurped ten years previously, where there are soldiers everywhere and the tension is rising as revolution nears. The boy-king has been exiled to England, where he is protected by Leo's great uncle, who is plotting to bring him back.

The storytelling from Catherine Banner is fascinating - it is instantly readable, and full of events, and yet the pace of the story is never high. There are rarely moments where you *must* read on, and I can't say that I fell in love with any of the characters, although their subtle development leaves them distinct and well-formed. The pages turn easily and there is a subtle draw to the story - to find out what happens, and when and how the two threads will link together. There is also a tension which builds chapter by chapter. It isn't necessarily a pleasant tension, and not everything in this story goes as you will hope it should. But that is in some ways what is so good about it.

Banner has created here a fascinating set-up: the use of England as the alternative reality is a great idea, and Leo's country, Malonia, is definitely convincing in its oppressed, military-ruled way, and reminiscent of war-time Poland or something similar. The characters are believable, and you gradually come to want them to succeed. The story is enjoyable, and as part of a trilogy certainly gives me an inclination to read the sequel.

There are a couple of weaknesses - in a way, this feels too much like the start of a novel. There isn't much of a climax and the pace doesn't particularly pick up (although the tension does) as the story progresses. I would also have liked to see more made of the use of England as the alternative reality - it is a great idea, but to be honest it could be set anywhere, and very little of it makes specific reference to our country.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book, and should I see the sequels in a book shop I would definitely pick them up. The weaknesses I mention may simply be because this is the first novel, and is a set up for what is to come... The story-telling is original - not necessarily in the story that is told, but in the lack of blockbuster moments and heroic characters so common in this type of tale, and in the slightly unpleasant tension which pulls you through the story...
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
as you can see from other reviews this is a book that has rather divided opinion, so what can I say about it?

let's start with the facts.

It's a fantasy novel. the writer was fourteen years old when she started it. it runs for roughly 427 pages. and uses three different typsets throughout, to signify different settings for the scenes.

it is the story of leo, a boy who lives with his grandmother and younger brother in a typical fantasy kingdom - a feudal world in the middle of a war, and some of the inhabitants have magical talents.

Leo finds a book one day that writes itself, and tells him the story of a man in another world. who has connections to this one. as the world around leo starts to come apart in war and bloodshed, the story of the other world continues.

now the opinions:

not a book well served by any publicity liking it to harry potter, but a decent piece of writing in many ways. the characters and the setting can feel slightly generic but strong enough in their own right to feel relatively individual.and generally the writing is quite mature and the prose decent enough.

again the publicity is slightly misguided as it can be a bit dark in places, with a few deaths, an underage mother, and a character contemplating suicide.

big problem is the pacing. nothing much of note happens in the first hundred pages - which are quite easy to get into, after a slow first ten - and in many ways this breaks one of the cardinal rules of writing in that you should always have your characters act rather than react. leo spends far too much time doing the latter.

nevertheless, it has it's moments, as his world starts to come apart. and as a depiction of life during wartime, ordinary people caught up in great events beyond their control, it's not bad. but in the last one hundred pages there's a bit too much of life in the other storyline when we really need more of a focus on leo.

this seems to be billed as a trilogy which is odd as it does come over as self contained.

in short there are a lot of flaws with this, but I did find it quite a compelling read in other ways. lets call it a promising debut. I shall look out for future work from the writer.
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VINE VOICEon 24 October 2008
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Is it irrelevant...even patronising...to comment on an author's age when reviewing their work? Hopefully not : it would be difficult not to mention Jane Austen's youth if discussing her "The History of England" or, for that matter, Tennyson's old age when considering "Crossing the Bar."

Catherine Banner, we are informed in the introductory blurb to this fantasy novel, was 14 when she started to write it and is now 19 years old. The main characters are also teenagers, Leo, the narrator of most of the story, is a typical angry and disillusioned youth, reacting badly, even childishly, to the many tragic setbacks he receives. As might be expected, our author captures the teenage mindset very well, but to an older reader the long dwelling on misery can seem rather self indulgent.

The alternate Earth, connected mystically to England in our own world, is well portrayed and consistent. It is not, however, particularly dynamic or memorable; It is a similar world to our own and its differences are not illumiating to our own society.

The story of the Prince/Ryan which is told to us by Leo in the form of a dream or fiction is more successful, it has a development and a conclusion not present in Leo's own tale of woe. It is odd that when the two main characters, Leo and Ryan, meet, this meeting is very underplayed, and little is made of their encounter.

"Maybe you'll think... this a sad story" Leo writes at the end of this book "But it's not..." Well, actually it is, it is about the raw sadness of youth rejecting family, friends, religion. It's just SO unfair...
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Firstly, I was particularly impressed when I learned that The Eyes of a King is a the debut novel of a young author who started writing it at the age of fourteen, although not without apprehension at a possible lack of maturity in the writing. And it's a mixed bag on this front - the writing does sound green, unpractised and slightly cliched, and you do sometimes feel like you are reading a piece of GCSE original writing coursework. However, Catherine Banner shows some promising signs as well as the tell-tale hackneyed adventure prose that betrays her age, and has a particulary well-developed sense of scene, and sets some beautiful pictures against which she develops the characters in the book. In fact, the predictable, tried-and-tested nature of the writing is probably great if you're a 12-year-old kid who loves good old adventure writing - after all, it's not a book aimed at the adult market.

You do get the sense that much of the plot is prologue to something greater, and indeed this is meant as the first of a trilogy. While it does lack the neat story-telling and loose-end tying of J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter novel (with which this book is bound to be compared), you get the feeling that the tone will be consistent throughout the eventual set of three - unlike the Harry Potter books, where the reader detects a change in the intended audience from the third book onwards. As the author grows in experience and technique, the completed trilogy could well stand as a gripping epic.

With some interesting themes (political upheaval to name just one), there is originality in the story enough to set it apart from the rest. It's good, wholesome reading, conceived by a young mind which should appeal to other young minds.
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VINE VOICEon 17 August 2008
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a hard one to review.

The one thing that kept going through my head as I read this book was this girl is only 14!! This made the fact she has produced a 400 odd page book and got it published quite an achievement.

I found her use of language and prose to be good and in places excellent showing a mastery of the English language that many adults never achieve.
There are elements of this story that suggest she has a good reading of fantasy classics such as C.S Lewis and there is enough use of discriptive language to help the reader set the scene and tell the reader that she has a good understanding of the world she has created.

All this aside the book really fell down for me on it's lack of direction. There are parts of this book where I became lost especially with the constant changes in story direction. I also felt that the characters were a little flat and opened the book to find a small photo of the proud author followed by the story starting instantly in the first person, naturally assuming that the story was being told by a young girl only to find 4 pages in that the viewpoint is that of a boy and somehow I have to change my visual perception of this character.

Overall I can't help but feel that this girl has a talent that in the coming years will no doubt make her some serious money as an author. As for this effort I can't help but feel that maybe this should have been written now and then left a few years a rewritten to give it that maturity that would better suit her target audience and maybe would have given her the oppurtunity to tighten up her story and give it a better flow.

This book is worth a look even if only to marvel at how talented some children can be, but I can't promise you will be blown away like I hoped I would.
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on 14 March 2010
I enjoyed "The Eyes of the King", I didn't love it. The imagination behind the story is wonderful and I think Miss Banner has the potential of becoming a top notch writer. Unfortunately I found it rather confusing at times. There seemed to be so much going on and story became cluttered and dragged at times. I will say I enjoy the characters for the most part, especially RYAN, who I think was more well rounded as a character then LEO. Overall a decent read that had me looking forward to see what book 2 brought!
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VINE VOICEon 16 January 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I echo a lot of reviews here in that the story didn't have enough pace. For a book aimed at teen kids, this is a serious failing, and one the editors should have pointed out as I feel that the author has undoubted talent.

The storyline itself is interesting, but could have been so much more. I look forward to seeing more from this author, as surrounded by the right team she will go on to produce many more successful novels.
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VINE VOICEon 26 August 2008
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Now there are some voices who herald 19 year old Catherine Banner as the next JK Rowling. I have to say, sorry, I disagree.

The narrator is 15 year old Leo North who lives in Malonia. To the Malonians, England is a fairytale country in another dimension, nobody knows for sure whether it's real or not. Malonia used to be a wonderful place to live in before the revolution when the king and queen were killed and the prince exiled to England. The country is now ruled by a type of military dictator who wages war against the neighbours.

In this setting we have Leo North who lives with his grandmother and 8 year old brother Stirling in a small flat. Both brothers attend military school. There used to be practitioners of magic everywhere and Leo seems to have some ability along those lines. His parents are not around anymore and we don't really know what has happened to them. We only know that his father wrote books about the good old times and these books are prohibited now - he had to leave. His grandfather Aldebaran was a great magician and he is also gone now. To cut a long story short, Leo finds an empty book in the snow and suddenly writing appears in the book. Every day or so there'll be a bit more. It turns out to be the story of what happened in England to the prince.

Altogether there are three different convoluted narratives and that was my main problem. It took me quite some time to figure out what on earth was actually going on. The three narratives are written in three different fonts to mark where one begins and the other one ends. That said, it took me until nearly the end of the book to understand what the first narrative, which actually starts the book, meant. It turns out that Leo tells his grandfather what has happened while the grandfather was in exile. We get that information about 10 pages from the end of the book.

Worse, however, was that the content of the book was boring, completely boring. There was not nearly enough movement in the story to keep me interested and I had to force myself to finish the book. The title is misleading - while 'the eyes of a king' are mentioned once or twice, there is no meaning attached to the phrase.

I would say that the first three quarters of the book could have been shortened considerably as the 'action' takes place in the last part. But even there, events that should have come across as exciting/traumatic are just lackluster. In addition, the author did not manage to make me care about the characters at all in one way or another. I did not mind when one of the characters died, I was not excited about the revolution - my only reaction can be described as 'yes - and - so what?'
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VINE VOICEon 16 October 2008
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Im always in and out books, i tend to find them difficult to digest if they start too slow, and this starts slow...

Dont get me wrong, it can be thrilling and can grab you in at times, its well written and draws well on the whole moods it trys to create, but its slow start and general slow pace throughout the book realy hinders it from lifting off.

If it were probably shorter and more compact it would be a big definate read for fantasy lovers, but its dragged out story will put most readers off with a short patience like myself.

I have no doubt the auther will get better and better though, it shows fantastic promise and will probably pay to keep an eye on this writer...
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VINE VOICEon 4 September 2008
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I tried with this book, I really did , I took it on holiday and kept putting it to the back of the pile but finally relented.

I think I'd got to page 236 before I thought "why am I wasting my valuable time reading this tosh"?

At the end of the day the book is written by a fifteen year old girl not totally devoid of talent, it justs drags on and on with misery and nothing seemingly related to propelling the story along at any pace.

At one point after about 20 pages of illness one of the characters dies, and you honestly think to yourself "at least he's free of it now".

It might have a blinding ending but I'm sorry I won't be finding out.
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