Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship's Reviews > In the Eye of Heaven

In the Eye of Heaven by David Keck
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In the Eye of Heaven is a readable book, but on further reflection, it's pretty bad. Probably the one thing the author did best was creating a realistic (sometimes meaning gross--flea-ridden beds and so forth) medieval setting. And I found the plot easy enough to follow: sure, unexplained supernatural things happen, but it's reasonable (one would assume) for the supernatural to be a little bizarre.

At any rate, most of the plot involves a young man named Durand attaching himself to lords' retinues in an attempt to make a living after losing his inheritance; a good part of the book is spent traveling with one lord from tournament to tournament, but there is some non-tournament action. Another plus is that this is no Xerox fantasy; even though a lot of the names (Radomor, Ferangore, Alwen, etc.) sound like they came from Tolkien's notes, the plot was not one I'd seen before. I found the physical descriptions adequate; yes, Durand is described within the first couple chapters, as are other characters when they're introduced. Female characters are a little flat, but this seems to be because they play understandably small roles in the men's world of knight-errantry. And the writing is serviceable. Well, the characters. The way they talk. Not in complete sentences. ...But I'm sure this is intentional; some real people talk that way too.

Now for the negatives. I was quite put off by Durand's character... he was a selfish boor. For instance, at one point he burns down a bridge and murders a man simply because the captain of his party wants to one-up an old rival, and Durand thinks this action will help and wants to curry favor. He never even shows remorse. Creating an unlikable protagonist is always risky; making it work requires at the very least the awareness that your character is a jerk and the intention to write him that way, but it doesn't seem that Keck had either. He's far too easy on Durand, letting him commit all sorts of selfish and immoral actions as in the example above, and substituting occasional brief bouts of self-pity for any genuine conscience. This might work if the narrative or the other characters' reactions to Durand indicated that, well, that's the point... but they don't. Apparently we're supposed to view him as a Great Fantasy Hero.

And then, no one in the cast felt three-dimensional to me (maybe that's why I wasn't bothered by the woman thing). Many non-supernatural aspects of the plot were unrealistic--for instance, characters get grave wounds, but somehow (no magic involved) within 24 hours they're up fighting, spending all day on horseback, or doing hard labor. We're talking broken bones and medieval remedies here. Then there's this spooky land that we're told no one ever visits, only for the entire cast (separately) to show up there later. And although Radomor "usurping" the throne through legal proceedings is supposed to be an important part of the book, it's never explained why he would take over if the king abdicated, seeing as how the king has brothers who would be next in the line of succession. And so forth.

In conclusion: this book is nothing spectacular, but it made for entertaining reading for a couple of days; the pacing was brisk enough to keep me going. And the plot is complete enough in itself that it doesn't demand moving on to the sequel (I don't plan to). If you tend to enjoy medieval fantasy even when it's not at its best, go right ahead; less enthusiastic fans of the genre may be disappointed.
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