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The Eyes of a King: The Last Descendants #1 Hardcover – May 27, 2008
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From School Library Journal
Grade 6–9—Two 15-year-old boys' lives are connected through parallel worlds—one medieval, one present day—in this debut fantasy. Leo's routine life in his medieval country of Malonia changes after he finds a powerful blank book that mysteriously writes itself in two stories. One reveals how the present King Lucien usurped the throne from his brother, the rightful ruler. Lucien had his brother assassinated but spared his young son, his nephew Prince Ryan. Aldebaran, Leo's great uncle, a powerful seer, prophesied that whoever harmed the prince would receive the same fate. Ryan is exiled to a mystical place called England where he lives while waiting to return to his homeland. A magical necklace belonging to Ryan's family also disappeared when he was exiled. Anna, 15, lives in modern-day England and inherits her grandmother's necklace. This is the first book in a proposed trilogy. The parallel worlds are well realized, particularly Malonia, but the characters lack depth. The book is confusing at times, and Leo's story goes on for too long. Several tragic events cause him to become depressed, and his constant crying gets tedious. There is more emphasis on his story than on Ryan's, but Ryan is more likable and his story more relevant to contemporary teens. Fantasy readers who like multilayered plots will pick up this lengthy book, but they may not stick with it.—Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library, Trenton
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In a fantasy marked by invention rarely seen from authors this young (Banner, currently 19, started the novel when she was 14), 15-year-old Leo learns that his kingdom’s lost prince may have been exiled to a “fairy story” land called England. The novel’s complicated structure, mixing Leo’s first-person memoir with legendlike snippets from an enchanted book, showcases Banner’s ability to create distinct narrative voices. She also makes some bold choices, from casting contemporary reality as a foreign, faraway realm to strongly focusing on characters on the periphery of the large-scale political machinations. At times, Banner’s dissection of Leo’s inner life, which turns unremittingly grim following several hard turns of fate, slows the novel’s momentum. Even so, readers who don’t necessarily crave tidy, joyful closure will find much to relish in this textured fantasy, well cued to fans of Megan Whalen Turner (for her character-driven political plots) and Garth Nix (for the Sabriel series’ fresh interplay between parallel realities). In the bargain, they’ll get a sneak peek at a rising talent in the bargain. Grades 7-11. --Jennifer Mattson
Top customer reviews
the story follows Leo North, a Malonian boy, who finds a book one night and over time writing appears in its pages describing the life of a man in England. England is essentially a myth or urban legend to the Malonian people. What follows is Banner weaving multiple different narratives/ points of view along with politics, war, and love stories into one anther.
And just for some reference I am a huge fan of Fantasy books. The lord of the rings, Harry Potter, Arthurian Romances, Greek epics, The Hunger games, A wizard of earthsea, etc. This doesn't fall in line with really any of those. It left me guessing throughout the entire second half and the book coms together very nicely. I'm also partial to the fact that it isn't the normal cut-and-dry story of protagonist faced with hardships in life, realizes he can become something great, then saves the world. Instead Banner uses characters to essentially carry the bigger story around them along. Another thing that I really enjoyed was that Malonia, where our main character is, is a place where some magic exists (though not to any heavy extent) and little in technology, and they look at England, the England that we all know (without any magic, but with modern technology), as a place that is very strange. Its basically the of Harry Potter. They know of magic, but our real world seems like a myth to them. (very interesting approach in my opinion)
My only complaint is she rarely uses contractions which sometimes makes characters feel inauthentic when they're in dialogue (ex. "can not" instead of "can't" or "do not" instead of "don't") but this is very minor. I have never read a book quite like this and its probably one of my favorites now. I would recommend his book to anyone if only because of its method of story telling.
I hope this review helps, even if it doesn't get you to read it, but make a little more of an informed decision. Its well worth your time
The first thing is the writing. It was choppy. But that was all, because even choppiness can be brilliant (look at Maria V. Snyder). It lacked that critical personal element that makes the readers care about the characters. When tragedy hits halfway through the story, I'm left feeling sympathetic because it's sad by nature, but I had no emotional take in it. And Leo's reaction...It was stretched over the rest of the book--more than two hundred pages of the exact same thing over and over and over and over again. The repetition was just annoying after a while. Then, when the romance came in, I was just like..."Oh, you've got to be kidding me." There was simply no emotional depth. I just didn't get it.
The characters didn't make sense, either. I didn't like any of them. Not Leo, the main character. Not Grandmother. Not Maria. Maria! That girl had no place in this story.
That was my main issue, right there. Nothing really had a set place. I'm expecting everything to be so Its Own that it can't be left out without the story falling apart. If it isn't needed, then I don't want to read about it. Maria didn't hold a critical part, neither did her story, which took forever to get out and wasn't that surprising.
When I pick up a book--especially a fantasy--I'm expecting some type of "tightness" about the plot. Consider Cinda Williams Chima. Her fantasy books--The Demon King and The Exiled Queen--are thick. Over five hundred pages each. Over that considerable amount of length, she doesn't let anything go to waste. She uses everything. Meaning, something she mentions in the beginning of the story becomes significant later on. All her character's subplots are critical to the main plot. With Eyes of a King, there was no tightness. With the parallel world aspect, the two plots should have been so tightly bound that you shouldn't have been able to tell them apart. I feel that the separate stories barely affected each other.
Not only was the plot not tight, but it was cliché. The romance with Ryan, the story with Aldebaran...And the dialogue was poor. The lines of one character could come from any other character. There was no differentiating feature between them.
The writing could have stood for some serious polishing. There's a difference between describing the rain outside to just describe it versus using the rain as a backdrop and tool to get to the bigger picture. And I think putting it in first person was a mistake. The emotional distance between the reader and the characters was simply accentuated by the use of "I".
However, there were a few diamonds amongst all the roughness. For example:
"There was an atmosphere of disquiet in that strange town. Horses shifted and puffed steam in the damp evening air, and the men who walk around did not talk or smile. There were Malonian flags everywhere, grubby and damp, and they flapped like sickening birds against the buildings."
Excerpted from the hardcover, US edition, page 251.
Overall however, I was just not impressed. I was so excited to read this book because I'd had the name "Catherine Banner" down on my authors-to-investigate list for months and I finally found her book in the library. She apparently started this book when she was fourteen and she was showcased in a prestigious British gallery for inspiring young Britons. But I don't see the hype. I might pick up the next book because I know how an author's writing can change as they mature as a writer. (Again, see Cinda Williams Chima.)
Most recent customer reviews
First off, the given synopsis doesn't really do justice to what this book truly is, which is a very dark journey through life under an...Read more