Trevin, newly made a comain for the king, was sent on a quest to find allies for the kingdom. And the missing comains. And an oracle. And a magical harp. And himself.
He quickly got sidetracked into the right direction. On a ranging search, from the mountains to the edge of the sea, he found more than he would have dreamed.
In Eye of the Sword, Karyn Henley irons out many of the wrinkles of the preceding book. The story is more focused, the characters steadier in their objectives – and more analytical in their actions.
The writing is smooth, the style pleasing. Other successes of the first book hold up: The plot moves at a good pace, the characters are individual and real. Although small in scope – no place seems hard to get to – the world is varied and rich.
Eye of the Sword suffered a little from repetition. You can only describe a character as husky so many times, especially in a 233-page book. What is more important, the “I am your father” card is overplayed in this series. Karyn Henley’s uses are interesting and emotionally compelling, but this sort of thing should not be done often even when it is done well. This is the only book I have ever read where the entire main cast could be put on the same family tree.
The Angelaeon Circle is billed Christian fantasy, and the influence of Christianity may be felt. But it has also the feel of a kind of cleansed pagan mythology. The old gods are dethroned and tamed; now servants of the Most High, they’re generally good and go under the name “angel”.
Which they aren’t. They wander about, well-meaning but flawed, exercising their special powers and ruling their special domains, mating with humans and raising superpowered offspring. Also, they die. And they can’t get back to heaven without their stairway.
But the troubling thing is not that the angels are not really angels. It’s that God is not really God. The novels are firmly monotheistic, but the monotheism itself strikes one discordant note after another.
A few stray mentions are thrown to the Most High, but for all that it matters to the story or the characters, he might as well not exist. Even the priests and priestesses show only rote devotion. Neither humans nor angels waste much thought or emotion on their creator.
In their defense, he doesn’t appear to waste much on them, either. The Most High seems distant, almost cold. He may have created that world, but he has largely signed off the running of it. There is a character called Windweaver, an angel who directs the winds, and I enjoyed him. But our God doesn’t appoint a Windweaver; He is the Windweaver. He feeds the birds, and He clothes the grass of the fields.
Nor is it only winds and oceans that the Most High leaves to angels. He even lets them figure out what to do with souls that are trapped on earth after the stairway to heaven is destroyed.
I recall two serious discussions of the Most High in the series. In the first – written in Breath of Angel – Melaia asks why the Most High doesn’t intervene. She is told: “What human will destroyed, human will must restore.”
The justice of that cannot be denied. Yet think of what our religion would be if God had that attitude toward us. “You made this mess. You clean it up.”
In the second discussion, this one in Eye of Angel, the Most High is called the “father-mother of the universe”. I don’t know what, exactly, Karyn Henley meant by that. But the formulation is unquestionably pagan.
And it is reinforced by two unfortunate coincidences. “The Most High” is gender-neutral – and I cannot recall anyone in the novels referring to the Most High as “he” or “him”. Furthermore, the Most High is served by priestesses in temples – another thing that carries the taste of paganism. The God we call Father chose only priests to serve in His temple. But it makes sense that the “father-mother of the universe” should have priestesses, too.
I have dwelt a long time on this, but it was only a small element in the novels. It can be ignored; it can even be missed. I am also bound to note that the wrongful impression is created in large part by omission. Karyn Henley can, if she chooses, reverse it in succeeding books.
It is only fair, after all this, to stress the good in Eye of the Sword. As a story it was well-crafted, and it has the proper fascination of the genre. If the mythology is as much pagan as Christian – that is for each reader to weigh according to his own judgment.
And now, for further elucidation and for buying opportunity, we have the tour links:
Eye of the Sword on Amazon;
Karyn Henley’s website,
and Facebook page;
And, always last but never least, the CSFF reviewers:
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
And before I forget: