The Eye of God by R.J. Blain is a fantasy story, part one of the Fall of Erelith, involving two protagonists set in a richly realized world with a very strong religious based magic system.
I'm acquainted with R.J. Blain through Google+ and find her interesting and someone I'd enjoy a cup of coffee with if the opportunity ever presented itself.
I really enjoyed her book but that doesn't make it perfect. On amazon I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. If three stars is average it was above average. It wasn't 5 star perfect though.
The blurb on amazon talks almost entirely about one of the protagonists, Blaise, who appears to be some sort of exiled, or fallen angel and the other protagonist, Terrin -- a slave who wears a magical collar that punishes him with pain if he acts or even thinks, against his master's wishes, is mentioned in only the last sentence of the blurb.
That being said the book started with Terrin in a tense situation and opened a lot of questions that made me really want to keep reading the book. That part was perfect. The part that was off-putting for me was that since the book started with him I sort of, as a reader, assumed he'd be the primary focus of the book. Sure, books can have two protagonists, but one is usually the main guy and the other sort of a B-story line and eventually the two merge or intersect. So I was a little confused why Blaise got 90-95% of the blurb but we started with Terrin. I felt off balance because of that.
Terrin, as a slave whose actions are controlled by the collar make him really a passive character. As protagonists go it was a little frustrating to me. I like my protagonists to be people of action. Terrin was a puppet on strings, jerked about by whomever stood in front of him that wasn't wearing a collar. He'd worn the collar for as long as he could remember so freedom wasn't something he was familiar with. He couldn't even realistically rebel against the collar because it a) punished thought and b) had been there so long he was effectively like a broken docile horse. Yes, he did things that were exciting and cool, but it was always at the behest of someone else. Puppets make really boring protagonists.
Blaise, a fallen angel, maybe exiled for something? Maybe he can earn his way back into the good graces of the pantheon's god? Blaise was ridiculously interesting. If you've seen Arrow on The CW you'll get my next comparison if you haven't I'll try and explain it. Blaise's most interesting bits weren't what he was doing at the time of the book. That was interesting (if convoluted -- more later) sure, but his back story that we were given in little doses here and there was fascinating. I loved it. It was like watching Arrow where the scenes from the island, the flashbacks, were awesome and kept my interest. Blaise's past was incredibly interesting to me and not revealed in long swaths of exposition, but parsimoniously doled out over the whole book. It really worked. It built tension. It built suspense. It kept me interested in the Blaise character. I can see why he featured so prominently in the blurb. He was and is a lot more interesting than the puppet on strings that Terrin was in this first book.
Blaise in the here & now of the book was sometimes convoluted, honestly, the whole book was sometimes convoluted in that R.J. Blain tended to not want to over-share and bury us as readers in details or back story. I get that. But sometimes things were a little too sparse and I felt like whole paragraphs had been hacked out in the editing process that would have cleared things up for me. At the end of the book I wasn't lost or confused so the information was there, it was just not put there in a way that made things easy for me as a reader. That's okay I think. Some books are an easy read. The stuff is spoon fed to me in chronological order and there isn't a heck of a lot of work I need to do.
The Belgariad is one of my favorite series ever. It's not, by any stretch, a complicated or challenging book/series. Eye of God is going to require the reader to think and remember things they've read and put them together themselves. It was such a change from what I normally read at first I was put off by it. By the end of the book it wasn't something that I disliked so much as something that was different. I'll definitely read book two but I'll do so knowing that it's going to require thought on my part, work on my part. It won't be a super relaxing beach read. That's not what R.J. is writing and she's doing it on purpose. Does she limit her audience when she does that? Yeah, probably. I'm guessing she wants smart readers. If she revealed a little more, a little earlier, a little... more spoon-feeding would go a long way to broadening her audience. I think.
Having said that I was thinking about things she did in her book that I liked that I'd want to do in mine. Things I'd "fix" in my book that I messed up on. (To be clear I'm not saying she messed up. I believe her choices were deliberate.) But after publishing Jump/Drive I've started noticing things in my book that I'd change if I had it to do over again. I'm going to save that for another post or this one will get too long. Look for it toward the end of the week.
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