Top positive review
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Original story-telling - I'll be looking into the sequel...
on 16 July 2009
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...