CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 8. . . .October 23, 2009
The Eyes of a King. (The Last Descendants Trilogy: Book I).
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2009.
435 pp., pbk., $14.95.
Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.
Review by Ronald Hore.
He said it so humbly that I went on, more gently, “I'm sure he doesn't think it's bad. Anyway, I am the one going to hell, because I never listen in church.” He laughed. “Come on,” I said. “We're late.”
The last boys were stumbling past us through the gate and rushing through the slushy snow in the yard to line up. Sergeant Markey, Stirling's teacher and the worst in the school, was surveying them with his usual expression, which was hard to identify as any emotion. It changed to contempt when he saw Stirling and me. He hated us and made no secret of it.
I glared back and gave Stirling the look I gave him every morning–a look of patient endurance, like a criminal resigned to his execution–and we turned to the gate. The look annoyed Sergeant Markey. “Boys, for God's sake, get in here now!” he spat. He must have been the only person in Malonia who had no qualms about taking the name of the Lord in vain. I saw Stirling frown as he said it.
The Eyes of a King is a complex tale, one set in an alternative world that brushes up against our world in certain places. A revolution has taken place in the land of Malonia, the king and queen are dead, and a usurper holds the throne. There is a rumour that the prince is still alive, saved by a prophecy, but may now be in exile. Most boys in Malonia attend a military school, but girls receive no schooling at all. Technology in Malonia appears to be slightly behind our world, but there are those in Malonia who have powers we would consider as magic.
The main narrator of the story is 15-year-old Leo North who lives with his grandmother and his brother, Stirling. Leo finds a blank book in which words begin to appear, telling a story from the parallel world of England. The story he is gradually receiving via the mysterious book tells about Anna and Ryan, a pair of 15-year-olds living in modern England. They have an obvious connection to Malonia.
Leo is a rebellious youth, feeling restricted by school and his grandmother. When Stirling dies from a plague, Leo falls apart mentally and sinks into a deep depression, rejecting the efforts of everyone around him. He is called up to serve in the army as the situation with an on-going war with a neighbouring country becomes more desperate, but Leo deserts. As the little family falls apart, revolution spreads, and the threads of the story dealing with England link back to Malonia.
The Eyes of a King is not a fantasy tale that would appeal to every reader of the genre. It maintains complicated story links between the two parallel worlds, and much of the dialogue in the story comes from Leo's internal thoughts, especially in the later part of the tale when he refuses to speak. Well-written, the book depicts an alternative world that is different enough from ours yet with enough similarities to be a cautionary tale, while setting the stage for the next volume in the series.
Ronald Hore, involved with writer's groups for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.
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