Sunday, December 5, 2010

REVIEW: Thief Eyes

Simner, J.L.  (2010).  Thief Eyes.  New York:  Random House.

256 pages.

Appetizer:  Thirty generations ago, to escape her fate of marrying a man she cared nothing for, a sorceress attempted to exchange her fate with that of one of her descendants.

Now Hayley, who has traveled to Iceland in search of her mother who went missing last summer, is haunted by dreams and a strange coin that is connected to an ancient spell.

She soon finds herself tangled in her ancestor's spell and in another realm.  Not only must she find her way home, but she must decide whether she wants to seek revenge against the sorceress for sending her mother away or saving the world that may unravel due to the spell.

So, at first, I thought I was going to love this book.  It dealt with gender issues.  You know how I feel about books that address historical and contemporary inequities between the genders:  Luuuuurves it!  But those issues were all kind of in the background.

Next I thought I was going to love this book because it dealt with Norse myths and it could become a part of my dissertation.  But I have to admit, Norse mythology is not my strong point.  I've only read one of the Eddas (and I honestly don't remember if it was the prose or the poetic one).  But my lack of knowledge was made worse by the fact that Simner seems to assume that the reader will not only have more than a vague recollection of the figures in Norse mythology, but will be familiar with the various sagas.  The only reason I was able to read with any confidence was because I googled all the names in the story that seemed like they could have been in a myth.  I found that to be very disappointing.  Maybe the goal was for me to already have researched Norse mythology.  Maybe after reading the book I'm expected to venture out and read both Eddas.  Either way, I would have just preferred Thief Eyes explain in a sentence or two some fragment of a myth that might be familiar.   Hell, I would have accepted for a phrase of description.

If that wasn't bad enough, I also had some trouble with the actual story.  How to explain it....

Have you read Kit's Wilderness?

It's this fantasy in which kids essentially time travel to solve an ancient problem.  But the book is structured in a poetic and trippy way that you kind of have trouble knowing what and when the action is going one.  Many people love Kit's Wilderness.

Thief Eyes reminded me of Kit's Wilderness.  I fraking hate Kit's Wilderness.

As I was reading Thief Eyes, I had a lot of trouble with the way Haley flowed among times and locations.  I'd be reading, and suddenly it seemed that Haley was in great danger because there was fog and she fell (?) and had lost all of her memories and I didn't know how the paragraph had gotten to that point--not even after rereading--because I had thought she was just going for a walk and a raven stole her memory and to understand why that had happened I had to google Norse mythology, which was fine, but wouldn't it have been even better if the story helped me with that--oh and now somebody else is in this unknowable magic place and has transformed into a bear and I did not understand.


So, clearly, I had some trouble with Thief Eyes.  I do feel my issues with the story were solely mine.  I'm not a big fan of books that deal with the bending of time and location in fluid ways.  And this book is all about that.  The writing is good.  Haley's concerns as a character are interesting (having learned that her father cheated on her mom influences how she feels about Ari, who she is on this journey with and feels connected to, even though she has a boyfriend/best friend waiting for her at home).

I think I'm going to just have to conclude that this book just wasn't for me.

Dinner Conversation:

"I will not allow it.
I will not be given to the first man who asks for my hand, bartered like a horse or a sheep.  I will determine my fate, as my father promised me long ago" (p. 1).

"A moment more and this woman and I will trade places.  I will see through her eyes; she will see through mine.  She will marry Thorvald, Osvif's son, and I will be free" (p. 5)

"I want to see.  Is that so much to ask?" I kept my voice calm, reasonable--the same voice I'd used to convince Dad to take me to Thingvellir today, because I really wanted to visit the national park that was the site of Iceland's ancient parliament and in the middle of a rift valley and, oh, yeah, just happened to be the place where my mother disappeared last summer" (p. 10).

"Teaching Hallgerd was a mistake.  She combined the runes in ways I never intended, and in so doing called on fires that yet threaten the land beyond these stones.  I think it is not by chance that you've come to me now."  He nodded.  "It is time to undo my mistake.  I will leave with you, Haley, and teach you the sorcery with which to end Hallgerd's spell" (p. 103)

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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