I first heard of David Keck's debut from a publicist at H. B. Fenn (Tor Books' Canadian distributor) last fall. She was asking me if I'd consider reviewing In the Eye of Heaven. And since I always make it a point to support Canadian talent, I agreed. And when Steven Erikson mentioned it in both our interviews this winter, my curiosity was piqued.
In the Eye of Heaven will be released in just a few weeks, so I figured the timing was perfect to read it now. For more information on the book: Canada, USA, Europe. My objective was to get a book review online before the novel hit the shelves of bookstores everywhere.
Having just finished reading it, I find it hard to explain how the book made me feel. It's different from what's out there. There is no question about that fact. Perhaps too different, to tell the truth.
The worlbuilding is a cut above what is currently the norm on the market nowadays. And although this novel only lets us catch a few glimpses, it doesn't take an astute reader to realize that the world of Errest shines by its authenticity.
David Keck's rendering of the minutiae of medieval life is nothing short of brilliant. Indeed, I feel that only Katherine Kurtz might surpass him in that aspect. Yet, no matter how knowledgeable the author is, I fear that this is a facet of the tale which the "casual" reader won't even appreciate.
Quality prose and good dialogues abound throughout the book. Which is always a good thing.
The book's main problem lies in its pace. Very slow at the best of times, this might put off some readers. Especially the middle portion of In the Eye of Heaven, when the rhythm becomes sluggish for a good 200 pages. Which is too bad, for the novel had an interesting beginning and I was eager to learn more. But the slow pace prevented me from ever getting truly drawn into the story.
The characterizations are also a factor. We meet the main character, Durand, on page 1. Yet at the end of the book, after more than 400 pages, I still don't know much more about him than at the end of the first chapter. And the same thing goes for the rest of the cast. Understandably, In the Eye of Heaven is the introduction to a larger tale (an honest to God trilogy, according to Keck!). Still, I don't think I've ever read a fantasy book in which we learn so little about the characters.
Some of the storylines forming the backdrop of this novel appeared quite interesting. Unfortunately, most remain in the background and will probably play a larger role in the sequels. There is no doubt in my mind that Keck controls his tale with aplomb and assurance. But for some reason, something's missing to catch hold of the reader's imagination. We don't really know what's going on and where the author is taking us with these storylines. The ending, while providing resolution to one plotline, does little else.
In the Eye of Heaven is a solid effort. I'm curious to see what other readers/reviewers will think about it.
The final verdict: 7/10