Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Published by Tachyon on January 16, 2012
Reviewed by: Julia
Taking a delightful departure from his more common urban-fantasy settings, this epic tale from acclaimed author Charles de Lint weaves elements of Celtic and Nordic mythology while bringing sword and sorcery to the forefront.
Summer magic is waning in the Green Isles, and the evil Icelord is encasing the lands in a permanent frost while coastal towns are pillaged by snake ships. Mounting one last defense against the onslaught, a mysterious old wizard instructs his inexperienced apprentice in the art of shape-changing. Mercilessly pursued by the Icelord's army, this newfound mage gathers allies—a seemingly ordinary young woman and her protective adoptive family—and they flee north in a desperate race to awaken the Summerlord.
Time is running short for the Summerborn, especially when a treacherous family betrayal is discovered.
I first encountered Charles de Lint at a time in my life when I read almost exclusively a traditional type of fantasy. Steeped as I was in Valdemar, Narnia, and Pern, the grimy, magical streets of de Lint’s contemporary Newford was a revelation. Now the wheel has turned and I’m reveling in contemporary stories galore but de Lint is back with a type of high fantasy I haven’t encountered in a long, long time.
EYES LIKE LEAVES is definitely a breed of book with Tolkien in it’s pedigree; a sweeping, multi-party affair that easily lends itself to imagining various dotted lines crossing a pen and ink map towards the inevitable confrontation with a dark villain. Unfortunately, it is just that wide angle view that kept me disengaged from the action until well into the last half of the book. The narrative jumps from character to character, each one painted with such a gorgeously detailed brush as to make it difficult to see the forest for the trees. Of course, de Lint is no amateur, and sticking with each lovingly drawn character proved to be well worth my time. The world building, it will come as no surprise, is fantastic. De Lint takes his wizards’ Zen magic past the inscrutable down to the accessible, and I loved piecing together the details of how this world works.
As with Tolkien, EYES LIKE LEAVES requires a different pace of reading than your average urban fantasy novel. The elder wizards of the book could have been speaking directly from the pages to me as they council their impatient, dramatic young protégées to slow down, take a deep breath, and let what they already know rise to the surface. I had to slow down, enjoy the journey, enjoy each scene, and let it all wash over me. Depending on your mood and your style, this book could be anywhere from Five Bats to Three, so I recommend you read a few chapters and judge for yourself. But if you’re on the fence, I’d encourage you to lean ‘yes’ and immerse yourself in de Lint’s world for awhile.