Tor, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-8436-2
It’s actually perplexing how Richard A Knaak could have written so many books, but his skills seem to be regressing with time. That, or the editor (James L Sutter, based on the acknowledgment) must have pressed a gun against the author’s forehead and insisted that he write Reaper’s Eye or die. This is singularly one of the worst constructed books I’ve ever had the misfortune to come across, because it is a hot mess.
The story is basically about a team of adventurers, which include Pathfinder archeologist Shiera Tristane and our disgraced ex-crusader Daryus Gaunt as well as Daryus’s talking weasel Toy (don’t ask), seeking a lost temple somewhere in the demon-infested lands of the Worldwound, while the evil witch Grigor Dolch is hot on their tails. That’s basically the story – a simple premise, but made unnecessarily tortuous by the author’s bad habits going out of control here.
Now, the author always has this annoying habit of simply defining his characters by their physical appearance or occupation. Characterization is beneath him, and in this one, this annoying habit is especially apparent. The characters do things, but their motivations for their actions in a certain scene are opaque as the author is more interested in telling me their eye color, the shape of their face or lips, the musculature of their physique, et cetera, and by god, he’d repeat these details so often as if the sum of a person is his or her appearance. This may work for teen readers, I’d imagine, but this story isn’t a young adult fantasy, so ugh indeed. I know Daryus has an oddly thin face but a brawny physique, while Shiera is of course the Pathfinder, but don’t ask me what makes these two tick. For example, why does Daryus keep letting Toy stick around? Why does Shiera show so little interest in the fact that Toy followed her home – isn’t she even a little curious about whether Daryus has sent Toy to follow her? And so forth – things just happen in this story, just don’t ask why they happen, as you’d never get the answer. It’s more important to know the color of Shiera’s hair, after all.
Reaper’s Eye is also full of hilariously cartoon characters that would have been too over the top even for the Looney Tunes stable. Grigor is always screaming, raving, ranting, and screeching, and it is absurd how he simply kills and abuses his underlings. Given the rate he does that whole killing or letting the underlings die thing, he makes Skeletor look like the Employer of the Year. Also, just how many underlings must he have had brought along with him to be able to be so careless and cruel? Maybe every time he kills one, he pulls ten more out of his ass due to some magical powers given to him by his demonic bosses.
Chronology is a mess in this book – certain time may have passed from one scene or chapter to the next, but it is never made clear each time that happens. The author also uses short, poorly detailed sentences all the time, and his idea of a chapter-ending cliffhanger is… well, here’s a typical example of such a thing found all over the story.
Before Daryus stood Raffan.
Who promptly collapsed.
Instead, she stood almost mesmerized by their staring eyes.
Their great, cyclopean eyes.
OH NO, NOT THE CYCLOPOPOTAMUS MONSTER… wait, what’s the author babbling about again?
The needle struck Daryus in the neck.
The world faded away.
Funny, I feel the same way reading the author’s “exciting” dramatic chapter cliffhangers.
Also, I don’t know whether it’s just bad continuity or poor writing, but there are also quite a number of contradictory scenes in this story. For example, Grigor lets another bunch of his underlings die to a trap in one scene, and I am told that “the remaining” henchmen all fled the scene. And yet, in the next page, he is back to being served by those supposedly-having-fled underlings. So, did these poor sods run away or not?
At any rate, this book is so poorly written and the story is a no-depth, no-characterization mess that I can only wonder whether Reaper’s Eye is some kind of contractual obligation that the author had to turn in or someone would steal away his toys or something. There is really no redeeming feature to this mess, and I have no idea how to even lie about a reason for anybody to read this thing.