In the Eye of Heaven has potential, but unfortunately the writing drags it down considerably. It really needed to be polished. At the moment it reads almost like a first draft, without anything properly fleshed out.
The first problem is that scenes are poorly described, when they are described at all. I felt almost blind as I was reading, because David Keck gives you nearly no idea of the places or people that the characters find themselves around. When he does describe a place it is with only the barest hint of what is there, or it’s in terms that don’t have any descriptive value, terms that Keck has developed to describe his own world, but have no real meaning to anyone who can’t see into his thoughts. For instance, two main characters are called ‘Rooks’. They aren’t really described much beyond that. I have no idea what they look like or sound like — other than that they dress in black — for the entire book. The characters spend a majority of their time travelling across the landscape; however it’s never really described beyond the ground underneath their feet. We are told that they are walking on grass up a hill, for example, but that’s it.
When Keck does describe anything, it’s in fits and starts. You’ll get a tiny bit of information and then, half a page later, you’ll get a little more. So, you’ve already started to imagine what’s going on, filling in the yawning gaps left by the author with your own imagination, and then you have to change it all to fit in some new information. In fact, sometimes this information doesn’t just come a page later: it isn’t until you read through about 90% of the book that you’re told that Durand has black wavy hair. Durand is the main character, by the way.
When things are described they are written in a confusing manner. I know, I’ve already told you that, but it’s not just that the details are few and far between, they sometimes seem to be conflicting. Here’s an example:
During the night he had looked closely at his sword … the Eye [sun] shone in a pale, crisp heaven … they rode through a night as black as a midnight mine … sometime before first twilight …
The gaps mostly contain some brief descriptions about the men in the area. Basically this is all the same scene. Is it day? Is it night? How many days have passed? At first it seems obvious that it was night, then day, then night again, but if you actually read the entire thing in context — which is more than I want to quote here — you’ll see that it’s only one night and one day. But it doesn’t add up. Another problem. I have with the writing. Is that the sentences. Are structured. Awkwardly. (You get the idea, I’m sure.) Another thing that I found difficult to digest was — well, let me give an example first, then I’ll explain it a bit:
Table, wall, bench, and food were all scabbed over. A half-finished leg of goose had sunk in on itself, putrid with mold. Maggots teemed … a similar broad fan of mildew had bloomed over the plaster. Insects scrabbled down the table. [A] black functionary plucked one of the running things — cat quick — and popped it in his mouth.
Pretty gross, eh? This is at a large group gathering and yet none of the characters really react. Is it real? Is it imagined? Does everyone see it? What the heck is going on? The events in the book are entirely like a hazy dream where everything is indistinct and yet a looming caricature of reality at the same time.
Finally, I hate, hate, hate how the author writes women. Not that you get much of them in this book. In fact there really are only two that get more than a paragraph’s mention at all. They are fairly stereotypically described, physically, for women in fantasy books and also they are horrible, weak characters. The main woman is actually quite a selfish person and yet Keck brushes off her disastrous actions with sympathy for her and no sense of responsibility at all. I can’t say any more without revealing too much of the plot, but suffice it to say that this point alone would reduce this book’s review to two starts from me.
The only reason I haven’t given In the Eye of Heaven only one star is because I think that, as a whole, the story isn’t too bad. It’s just extremely rough. I’d never have bought it, or even started to read it, had I known what I was in for. However, it’s not the worst novel I’ve read at all. At least I finished it, though I did skim the last several chapters just to get it over with. Ah well. Maybe the next book by David Keck will be worth reading. This one, for me at least, was not.
Mark Pawlyszyn, one of our earliest guest reviewers, has always tended toward the creative side of life and had careers in music and painting before settling into his current position as the owner of Unique Images Photography. Mark has visited and lived in twelve countries and can ask for directions to the bathroom in several languages. He currently lives in Canada with his wife, Sherri.
The Eye of Heaven — (2007-2008) Publisher: On the very day of his homecoming, the future of Durand Col is snatched out of his hands. He has trained a lifetime for lands he cannot have, and a role he cannot play. There is nothing for him but the road on the verge of winter. With this news ringing in his ears, Durand reels from his father’s stronghold into a realm in turmoil. It has been a year of war and whispers. There are signs in the Heavens, and spirits stalk the land. Plagued by omens, Durand struggles to make an honest place for himself in this old kingdom, lurching into the company of desperate knights, madmen, lost nations, and fallen heroes. While he finds no shining armor, he soon stumbles into murder and the opening of a civil war. Every step tangles him deeper in knots of treason, love, and betrayal. While Durand and his companions struggle to resolve their private fates, their kingdom is collapsing. Their private course, however, leads them into the heart of the collapse. With their blades drawn, they arrive at the day when their kingdom’s fate is decided. It is on this day that Durand must find the strength to face his own sins if he is to save his country…