I just finished up John Marco’s The Eyes of God. Sadly, I made a tactical error and ordered the sequel (The Devil’s Armor) later than I should have, meaning a few painful days of waiting for the postman before I can continue the adventure. But on the plus side, that’s a few days to digest all that’s happened in the previous 800 pages.
With that, a short review! Spoilers are limited to a few names, with very little said story-wise beyond the initial set-up. And it might be worth noting that The Eyes of God is my first experience with Marco, noting his previous Tyrants and Kings trilogy received rave reviews.
To set the story up with a nod to The Lego Movie: everything is awesome. The new king of Liiria, King Akeela, is off to make peace with longtime enemies in the land of Reec. Akeela is accompanied by Lukien, the Bronze Knight and the leader of Liiria’s invincible Chargers. The two are close, almost brothers.
Reec is more than receptive to the idea of peace, but a princess, magical amulets, and a wide variety of characters from all over the land threaten to ruin everything that Lukien and Akeela have worked for.
The short review: it’s not perfect, but I quite enjoyed it. It’s a wide-reaching epic fantasy that starts off a with a bunch of common tropes and clichés, but introduces some likable characters and takes us down some interesting paths.
Some of those paths feel like only a few steps in a longer journey, and in that regard, The Eyes of God suffers a bit from being “Book One of the Bronze Knight Series”. The characters themselves come and go, with some interesting figures appearing only briefly (presumably, they’ll be bigger players in the sequels–I immediately fell in love with Meriel, and will be sorely disappointed if her role doesn’t expand!). As well, there is a fairly significant amount of world building that’s done throughout the book, especially in the earlier parts.
That being said, the characters are well-written, likable but realistically flawed. The heroes struggle with their own weaknesses and emotions. The villains motivations and reasons, some even sympathetic. Nobody makes the right decisions at all times–as it should be.
Yet thankfully, the bad guys remain the bad guys and the good guys the good: The Eyes of God‘s cast isn’t merely drab shades of gray, leaving the reader with a foggy cast and no heroes to cheer on. Even with some insight into the antagonists’ minds, the idea is never conveyed that their actions are somehow in the right.
As for the actual storyline: characters come and go, time passes, alliances and kingdoms form, grow, and wither. Adventures start in Liiria and then cross more than a half-dozen kingdoms, and Marco does a solid job of illustrating their varying cultures and inhabitants. There’s action, romance, tension, and drama; magic, swords, and mythical beasts. The Eyes of God hits all the right notes that epic fantasy demands!
There are a handful of small issues. The pacing is a bit slow, and I think it might have benefited from being trimmed down just a bit from its nearly-800 pages. Characters’ moods sometimes fluctuate rather quickly (such as going from despondent to cheerfully making jokes within a few lines). Sometimes some of the nuance gets a little twisted: at one point Lukien noted he wouldn’t be surprised if a certain bit of news had reached his destination ahead of him, then, less than a page later, he’s surprised to find it has!
But those are all quibbles within the wider scope of The Eyes of God. Marco has crafted a strong first entry in a wider epic fantasy tale, and I’m eager to rejoin Lukien (and, I hope, Meriel!).
Fantasy Adventures Volume 1: Five Short Stories of Humor, Love, and War is out now for 99¢!