Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Review: Thief Eyes by Janni Lee Simner

Found via: Publisher's Weekly 4/5

Thief Eyes

I read Simner's Bones of Faerie last December and found it to be a really interesting take on both the fantasy and post-apocalyptic genres. Simner's back again already, dealing once again with fantasy elements, this time tackling Icelandic sagas with a thoroughly modern heroine.

One year after her mother disappeared, Haley has joined her geologist father in Iceland, hoping to retrace her mother's steps and bring her home. What she never expected were those steps to draw her into the magical entanglements of her ancestors and the complicated rules of Icelandic myths!

The magic began with Hallgerd, a woman forced into an unhappy marriage who casts a spell that affects all of her female descendants - including Haley and her mother. In her quest to escape the magical realm and return to the real world, Haley encounters Muninn and Freki - a talking raven and fox, respectively, who offer their help, though always at a price. Also accompanying her is Ari, a handsome Icelandic boy, the son of her father's colleague in Iceland. As the magic sinks deeper into both Haley and Ari, the question is no longer whether they can find Haley's mother, but if they can save themselves from also suffering her fate.

Although this is only the second Simner novel I've read, I'm already detecting a theme in her novels. For one thing, she's got mother abandonment issues, as both this and Bones of Faerie focus on a girl trying to find her mother after a magical intervention (though this time Haley didn't know magic was going to be involved at the beginning).

The novel could be a little frustrating as sometimes Haley's reactions would be very cyclical. Isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Haley would often make virtually the same mistake multiple times.

I enjoyed the exploration of the Icelandic myths - there are a lot of similarities with Norse mythology which I have a passing familiarity with, but several key differences as well. Simner explains in an author's note that she drew much of the story from Njáls saga, but since the events took place 1000 years ago and weren't written until the 13th century, it's impossible to know what's historical and what's fictional while also leaving plenty of room for Simner to add her own interpretations. She also explains why Freki, traditionally depicted as a wolf, appears as a fox in this story.
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