Friday, 23 November 2007
‘In the Eye of Heaven’ – David Keck (Tor Books)
La Gringa (aka 'The Swivet') sent this book my way and, after coming off the back of what feels like a lot of sci-fi reading, I was looking forward to getting back into some epic sounding fantasy. I stayed up late last night to finish this one but this wasn’t always the case. In fact, there were a couple of times when I almost put the book down and didn’t bother picking it back up again.
Durand is a squire halfway through his life’s plan of becoming a knight and settling down to run a fiefdom on his father’s land. This backfires in the most dramatic way and Durand is left to fend for himself. Falling in with a band of mercenary knights forces Durand to witness the worst excesses of the Duke who pays them, his next job is working for a Lord who is no less obsessed with a mission to restore his honour. And all the while, Durand is steadily becoming a focus for the wild magic that is slowly creeping back into the kingdom…
‘In the Eye of Heaven’ is (for me) a book of three parts, two extremely good bits with a period in the middle where things felt slack. Get past that bit in the middle and you’ll be rewarded with a very good read that promises good things for ‘In a Time of Treason’ (the sequel). Keck’s world is suffused with myth, legend and a liberal dose of old English culture. It’s a world that you can become totally immersed in but this sometimes happens at the expense of the story you’re supposed to be reading. There were a couple of times, in the middle part of the book, where the telling of ancient legends completely took over the plot and I was left thinking ‘but what about the story?’ Another thing that got me was that a long journey, through a forest, seemed to be punctuated with confrontations and fights that did little to advance the plot. It felt to me that Keck had realised long forest journeys can be tedious and felt like he should throw some stuff into spice things up.
This all sounds like I hated ‘In the Eye of Heaven’ but the feeling I came away with was one of enjoyment. Without giving too much away the various plot elements sat together very well and combined to keep my attention throughout. The politics (of which there were a lot) were not overdone, focussing more on the politics of the tourney field rather than those of state. Durand’s character is very well drawn and you actually get to see him develop, over the course of the book, into a completely different person than when he started out. Some of what he has to go through will really have you feeling for him, ‘In the Eye of Heaven’ is described as ‘gritty fantasy’ and this is certainly true! Durand’s ordeals are no different than any other knight-errant, that you will encounter in other books, but Keck’s skill makes these ordeals fresh and engaging.
‘In the Eye of Heaven’ is a difficult read but one that is ultimately rewarding and promises a lot for its sequel. I’m looking forward to reading more from David Keck, if you’re a fantasy fan then I reckon you should give him a go.
Seven and a Half out of Ten