“At fifteen, Lena had yet to develop the necessary wit, guile and talent to destroy the world,” reads the opening line of Colin Adams’ EYES LAST SEEN DYING. It’s a compelling sentence and one that hints at what’s to become a saga around Lena, absolutely dripping with plot twists, adventure and magical asides. We meet Lena shortly before her wedding, which forms part of a traditional spring festival, but is not to be. Instead, her hometown of Harrowgate is pillaged by demonic forces, leaving it a shadow of its former self, while Lena’s husband-to-be loses his life right before her eyes. Lena’s left devastated, and helpless, scrounging by on the streets until she’s rescued by a mysterious figure and whisked away to a mountain top training retreat, where she becomes a confidant of the sensei, and learns a talent that stretches beyond her own understanding, in terms of both swordship and her broader awareness. When that new home too comes apart at the seams, Lena finds herself thrust into the center of a world collapsing in on itself, in a slow-unravelling plot that shines with depth and delicate detail. She learns that people aren’t always as they seem, and that her trust has been misguided and Lena’s development through the book is sharp enough to feel like a coming-of-age story.
EYES LAST SEEN DYING contains plenty of mysterious adventure–a map in the inside front page, interwoven elements that each unfold into plot points, colorful characters, and a road to discovery for the lead character that reaches beyond simply learning to physically assert herself. The landscape of the story is bright and detailed and hides plenty. Like many fantasy novels, however, it also suffers a little too much from convenience and touches on a few clichés: there’s a great sweeping world out there, yet the protagonist tends to find herself at the heart of every one of its great mysteries. Readers uncover it through Lena’s eyes, at times that suit the narrative a little too much. If, however, readers can suspend their disbelief a bit, the book rewards in its attention to detail, like Harrowgates’ sought-after sausages and cities packed to the gills with magical creatures.
A colorful, detailed epic with plenty to recommend it, EYES LAST SEEN DYING is a blend of a coming-of-age and a fantasy novel about finding strength in adversity.
~James Hendicott for IndieReader