Friday, February 24, 2012

THIEF EYES


Review of THIEF EYES by JANNI LEE SIMNER

Reading this story is a little like walking into a dark tunnel. I can’t see where it’s going. I can’t even see very far in front of me, but once I emerge from the other end my surroundings are illuminated again. Like Simner’s other works, this tale has a dreamy, surreal taste to it. Forget predicting what will happen next. Forget finding the meaning; you can grasp at vague morals, but, like any dream, there are many possible interpretations to the point that definitive conclusions are arbitrary.

For THIEF EYES, Simner pulls from Icelandic mythology. A year ago Haley’s mother disappeared when she and her parents visited Iceland. Now, against her father’s better judgment, he’s taking her back there and she’s determined to find her mother, or at least learn more about what happened to her. What she couldn’t have imagined is that magic and a curse handed down through generations are at the root of her pain.

In my reviews of Simner’s BONES OF FAERIE books, I mention her skill with complicated (and hence more realistic) relationships. In THIEF EYES, a love triangle emerges, perhaps an overdone staple of young adult fantasy these days. However, Simner tackles this issue with more compassion and insight than most young adult and adult books alike. First, she remains a storyteller not a preacher. Her writing allows us to forget about the author and only think about Haley. In some literary love triangles, it’s easy to pick out the author’s first choice and sometimes you can even sense didactic or judgmental vibes about having your cake and…well, you know. Second, I can imagine Haley with either boy. They’re both likable and different without being exaggerated opposites. I find myself frustrated by love triangles where one of the “suitors” is ruled out by death, an unforgivable action, or an ultimately incompatible trait. I much prefer the more complex situation, like Haley’s, where both are nice guys and she could be happy with either, so she has to make a choice herself rather than let fate resolve the question for her. Third, rather than utilizing the love triangle simply for dramatic spice, Simner mines Haley’s predicament for beautifully-posed themes about both young love and a question that many spend their lives pondering: is it possible to love more than one person?

I can’t wrap up this review without mentioning Simner’s mastery of vivid sensory imagery. She can describe the cold so that I fetch a blanket or portray a sound so that I look up. In particular, I adored the passages about Haley running. I run myself and could relate to this sense that you just want to go faster and faster and if you could you would never stop. Of course, your body heats up when you exercise, so a fantasy twist that Haley might actually run so fast and so far that she bursts into flames taps into the actual feeling of adrenaline being released into the body during a run. The only problem is that these passages were so powerful they made me want to put down the book and go running instead!

I found the right amount of closure in the ending. It’s a good stopping point, but Haley’s sixteen and her life is only just beginning. The end leaves room for the reader to imagine all the possible futures ahead of her and cross their fingers that she finds a happy one.

1 comment:

  1. well i thought the cook was amazing and that everyone should read it!

    ReplyDelete