A couple of years ago I went on a bit of Maria V. Snyder kick, reading the nine books in the Chronicles of Ixia and loving ALL of it. Snyder’s world and character building were both excellent, and I fell in love with everyone. All that to say, I was pretty excited when I saw that Snyder was coming out with a new book this year, which is also going to be the start of a new series (Archives of the Invisible Sword). And then I was pretty disappointed to find out that there were some complications with Snyder’s publisher, and The Eyes of Tamburah wasn’t going to be available in the US for an indeterminate amount of time! So (and I’m telling you guys this entire story because I know you definitely care haha) I had to go a roundabout way. Snyder has an independent bookstore in Pennsylvania with which she is connected (it’s the place to go if you want to buy autographed copies), and they purchased a bundle of her books from Australia to resell here – and as far as I know, it’s the only way to get it here in the US! So since I preordered a copy, I even got to have it signed, which is cool.
Luckily, after all that effort, Eyes was totally worth it, as I enjoyed every word.
The main part of this book that was super fun was Snyder’s world-building. Shyla, the main character, lives in a world that is entirely desert – humans live underground to avoid the deadly rays of the midday sun, and much of the world’s class divisions can be marked by how far down someone lives – the further into the ground you are (the higher numbers), the richer you have to be. Shyla is definitely not one of the rich – she was abandoned and left to die as an infant, and was found and rescued by an order of monks who live outside of the city, in their own (underground) monastery. When Shyla came of age, she decided to not take her vows and join the order (the term “monks” is used loosely in this book to describe both male and female members of the order, and the vow of chastity is not included in this religion – basically somewhat but not really at all like what we think of as Catholic monks haha), but instead has been making her own way in the city. But the reason that she was abandoned as a baby is because Shyla is “sun-kissed” – blonde, rather than dark-haired like virtually everyone else – so she is still somewhat of an outcast in the city, where she works, studying and interpreting maps for archeologists and treasure hunters.
But things get a little crazy for Shyla as the story opens – she has helped an archeologist, Banqui, find his way to an artifact known as the Eyes of Tamburah. Banqui discovered them, only to have the stolen from him almost immediately. Now the ruler of the city, the Water Prince, is convinced that Shyla knows something about their current location, and soon Shyla is caught up in a wild adventure, desperate to find the Eyes.
So, like I said, I totally enjoyed this book. Shyla is very likable and a reasonable heroine – she was intelligent and clever without being obnoxious. She was a good fighter, but didn’t feel like a boy with a girl’s name. She was brave, but not foolhardy. She was focused on facts, but wasn’t emotionless. Other characters were also interesting. The world-building and the society are done very well. But where the book somewhat fell down for me was the almost frantic pace, combined with a few too many groups of people.
Basically, Shyla is running around trying to find the Eyes, and multiple groups of people are trying to also find the Eyes as well as Shyla herself. It started to get a bit confusing and convoluted, especially when various groups and individuals would suddenly betray Shyla, then a few chapters later they would explain how it wasn’t REALLY a betrayal, it just looked like one because of such-and-such reason, and then someone else would betray Shyla, and then it turns out it wasn’t REALLY a betrayal, and then the one group that fake-betrayed her earlier would do it again, and it got slightly repetitive and also basically put me into a position where I couldn’t really let myself like any of the other characters because I literally had no idea which people I was supposed to like/root for/hope would win. It left me feeling off-kilter for the majority of the book, and at the end I still wasn’t completely convinced that the “good guys” were really the good guys.
Still, this didn’t put me off from enjoying the book anyway. If you can just accept it as a total romp, it’s a good time – a sort of Indiana Jones or Jurassic Park kind of vibe, where everyone is running around and crazy things just keep happening.
I also had a good time reading an Australian book, if that makes sense. Things were measured metric instead of standard, and there were little turns of phrase that I enjoyed. I realized recently that it actually really annoys me that publishers change English books depending on where the English book is being published – for instance, my British Harry Potter books are actually a lot different from the US versions, and that is super aggravating. If a book is written in English, by someone who is British, and is set in Great Britain – I don’t want it to be “Americanized” in its terms, spelling, and punctuation. I want it as the author wrote it – the whole thing is look into a slightly different culture, and I like it that way! It isn’t completely applicable in this case, since the book is set in a fantasy world, but still. I like seeing phrases and terms that are used in other English-speaking countries, especially if the book is set in a different English-speaking country!
Anyway, I got all rambly there, but the point is – The Eyes of Tamburah was a super fun read. If you’ve read Snyder’s other books, I don’t think this one will disappoint you. Snyder also did a great job wrapping up a lot of loose ends in this one, while still leaving plenty of things open, in a not-aggravating way, to lead into the next book – a book for which I will eagerly be watching.