Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book Review: Through Kestrel's Eyes, by Yvonne Hertzberger

Through Kestrel's Eyes continues the Earth's Pendulum fantasy series of novels by Yvonne Hertzberger. The first in the series is Back from Chaos.

The saga continues, told from the first person narrative of Liannis, a woman seer who is connected with the Earth Mother.
"Liannis, the goddess Earth’s seer, her apprenticeship interrupted by the death of her mentor, must help restore the Balance. Until it is, Earth’s power is weakened, preventing Earth from sustaining the rains needed for good harvests. Drought and famine result."
Like the first novel of the series, I found this to be a quick read. The events impact the rise and fall of kingdoms: coup d'etat, abuse of the populace, drought, famine, and plague. Discovering how all this balances out is what turns the pages, for activities that do not support nature weaken natural forces so that imbalances occur. For the seer Liannis, helping restore that balance is her life's task.

One tag given to this novel is "fantasy romance," and I feel that is accurate. Along with the civilization-affecting challenges of the novel are also the individual characters and their quest for happiness. The author Hertzberger focuses on women in this novel, and although this was in many ways illuminating for me, a male reader, I found myself lacking a character I truly identified with.

Liannis is the main character, yet because of her role as speaker for Earth, her characterization becomes elevated beyond the human in many ways. What balances this is the seer's relationship with her servant Merrist, a soldier who loses a leg in battle and who then must revise his concept of self and role in life. Merrist was actually the character I connected to most.

As a romantic fantasy, the novel's individual characterizations revolve around love: the love relationships between the adults in the novel (from book 1 of the trilogy), a young prince and princess, and the hints of forbidden love between Liannis and Merrist. These are compelling characterizations but not completely fulfilling for me. I suppose I found the social and political conflicts more compelling.

Other areas that moved the novel to "romance fantasy" and more for women readers were the following: a beautiful woman who courted power by flirting with two princes; a neglected and abused mother who fears her husband; a pig of a rapist who takes advantage of the political chaos; women abused by the political leaders; the healing and nursing necessary after revolution; and a wedding with a very important dress. These conflicts and events were, in many ways, the story. They make the story but also skew the story, in my opinion. Thank God for Merrist and his rehabilitation.

However, I did read this book quickly and did not want to put it down. As in the first book, I wanted to find out what happened next. I wanted to find Earth placed back in balance. Hertzberger does an excellent job of including the individual stories within the epic events of the series. The magic of Liannis is realistic within the context of the novel. She has visions sent from Mother Earth, and she relays the information to the significant leaders. This works quite well.

The perspective of this novel, though, is more a woman's. If you greatly enjoyed England's marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton (and I watched along with my wife), then you will find corresponding events in this novel: save your kingdom and find love. I considered giving this novel a "3-star" rating, but decided that my personal bias shouldn't color my evaluation. It's actually a technically more proficient novel than the first in the series and deserves an equal "4-star" rating.

Thinking about some hints delivered in the novel, I'm wondering where the third novel of the trilogy will take us. That's an excellent sign.

Copyright 2012 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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