Thursday, December 13, 2012

Eyes Like Leaves by Charles de Lint

My Rating: 3.5 / 5.0

Amazon Rating: 4.20 / 5.00
Goodreads Rating: 3.67 / 5.00

I read an ARC of this title, which I received from Kristen at Fantasy Cafe.

The evil Icelord is spreading a permanent layer of frost down from the North across the Green Isles while his army of stormkin spreads across the land seeking the Summerborn, those touched by the Summer magic. For reasons unknown, the Summerlord has disappeared and so his magic is fading from the world. Meanwhile, snake ships are ravaging the coastal towns, killing all that they find. Carrie survives one of their attacks and flees across the Channel Sea, finding help in the form of Long Tom Turpen and his family of tinkers. However, the stormkin are not far behind their wagon.

Many years ago, Puretongue the druidhe discovered Tarn earning his living as a singer. Over the years he taught the boy much about the skills of shape-shifting and other ways of weaving the Summer magic, but now Puretongue is off searching for other Summerborn, while Tarn must travel North to the Oracle at Pelamas Henge. On the road Tarn observes a young woman being stalked by a stormkin and his fate becomes entwined with Carrie’s as they must both fight to save the world.

I was attracted to this title because of a comment that Grace, from Books Without Any Pictures, made on my review of The Wood Wife by Terri Windling. I enjoyed that title very much, and she said that it had similarities to works by Charles de Lint. When I started the book I discovered that the work had originally been finished in 1980. However, his editor, the same Terri Windling, suggested that if he were to publish this work in preference to a different one that he also had ready for publication then he would be pigeonholed as a straight fantasy writer. He decided to go with more contemporary fantasy and published the other manuscript instead.

I am glad that I knew this right from the beginning, because it explains a great deal about the quality of this title. Although the writing style is compelling and almost lyrical, the setting, plot and characters all feel very derivative. There is a lot of raw imagination and many unique world elements to be found, but one is reminded very much of Tolkien in its use of Celtic and Norse mythology. We even discover the sad remains of the dwarvish and elvish populations living in exile in a series of tunnels at the end of the book. Even the names that he uses would be at home in Middle-earth, for example Long Tom Turpen. There is also the same interest in travel and the depiction of the land. The magic system is refreshingly different, and I particularly liked the heavy use of shape shifting as a way to give the druidhe many talents, but the feeling that I had read the book before was too overwhelming. I also found the ending rather unsatisfactory with regards to Carrie and her choices.

I am glad that I read this as an introduction to Mr de Lint’s work, as I can now see that he has a wonderful writing style and great imagination. I hope to try some of his other works in the hope that they are more polished and feel more original.

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