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The Eyes of a King

Review

The Eyes of a King

On a cold June evening, 15-year-old Leo North discovers a book lying on a snow-covered street. When he picks it up, he immediately senses its powerful aura. Although hesitant, he decides to take it home with him. The next morning, he is surprised to see writing on a few of the book’s previously blank pages. The pages contain stories, including one about the young prince Cassius the III.

Fifteen years ago, the great Aldebaran wrote a prophecy that the young king and queen of Malonia would die, but that their son, the young prince, would live to reign over Malonia. Five years later, however, the prophecy seemed to come true, when the young Donahne royals were murdered during a hostile coup led by Lucien Kalitz. Rumors swirled that the young prince had survived and possibly had been exiled to the fabled England (the same place where Aldebaran was thought to have disappeared to years earlier). It seemed as though the wealth and good fortune of Malonia would be restored once again. As years went by, however, hope ebbed away and the supposed prophecy was reduced to a mere fairy tale.

Leo doesn’t know whether or not to believe the story, but he does know that to have a book relating to the prophecy is dangerous. His father, Harold North, was an acclaimed writer when he wrote about the royal family and Aldebaran’s prophecy in his book THE GOLDEN REIGN. It was banned shortly after it was published, and Leo’s parents were forced to flee the country, leaving behind Leo and his younger brother Stirling to be cared for by their grandmother Margaret.

The relationship between the brothers is close, despite their differences, age or otherwise. Young Stirling hopes to be a priest someday and often likes to discuss what he learned in church or their father’s books. Leo, on the other hand, has turned away from the church and doesn’t care for school. The brothers attend one of the government-run military schools, which they each find difficult to learn from, especially when dealing with the abusive Sergeant Markey, who seems to single out the two boys. Following in their father’s footsteps has also been greatly discouraged, a point that has made it difficult for Leo and his grandmother to get along.

Despite Leo’s increasing frustration about his life and limited future, one bright development is the boys’ friendship with Maria, also 15, who moved into their apartment complex with her infant son Anselm and her mother. Meanwhile, stories continue to appear in the book, seeming to confirm Leo’s suspicions that the book is potent with magic, as they give some answers and more questions concerning (and intertwining) the histories of Malonia and Leo’s own family.

However, when a tragic turn of events develops, Leo is set on a troubled path that will have him questioning the line between fantasy and reality.

With a mature, eloquent style rarely seen in a young adult author, Catherine Banner weaves an immensely gritty yet heartfelt saga about the choices that people are given, the decisions they make, and the dreams they cling to in the midst of challenging realities. THE EYES OF A KING is the first book in a projected trilogy that Banner began writing when she was just 14 years old. Based on this debut effort, her future as a writer is looking bright indeed.

Reviewed by Sarah Sawtelle on May 27, 2008

The Eyes of a King
by Catherine Banner

  • Publication Date: May 27, 2008
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0375838759
  • ISBN-13: 9780375838750