Thoughtful and Engaging Dark Fantasy
I read J.P. Wilder's "Blue Eyes at Night" without having read the first book in the series, and I can assure you I'll be going back to check out "The Crusader" (Book I) at my earliest opportunity. The reason I read "Blue Eyes" first was because I saw it was being offered for free as a promotional giveaway and I took advantage. Even though this book is a sequel, it is truly a stand-alone work. I never felt like I was lost, or lacked information because I haven't yet read the first book.
The book is written in a very intense first person style that, for me, evoked the Edgar Allan Poe story, "The Cask of Amontillado." I do mean that as a compliment, although I don't want to unfairly raise expectations from such a comparison. The storytelling in "Blue Eyes at Night" isn't as richly lyrical as Poe, but there are moments when I felt myself transported into the mind of the protagonist in the same way you get from "Cask"...and that mind isn't a particularly safe environment to inhabit.
The storytelling perspective of "Blue Eyes" makes it quite a bit different than the other fantasy works I've been reading lately. There are certain limitations from being so close to a single character. The character in question is a crusader/assassin named Aaron. When we meet him in "Blue Eyes" he's in the midst of a emotional crisis, and he defends himself (and takes lives) more out of habit than any real desire to live.
Assassins going through bouts of conscience are always interesting characters. For somebody to become an assassin you'd have to assume they have an emotional make-up that allows them to exist without remorse. However, everyone starts a new profession with confidence that the debilitating effects manifested in other practicing professionals are somehow not going to befall them. The thing that makes Aaron appealing is that he's not wandering around groveling and begging for redemption like a weepy child. He's got a certain amount of acceptance that the suffering that's been thrust upon him is justified, and he endures it with a kind of warped nobility.
I guess there's just something to be said for a character that is perhaps too aware of his or her own flaws. We live in a world where people are constantly attempting to present themselves as more than they are, so it's nice to see a character who is honest about his transgressions and cognizant of the fact that he probably deserves a terrible death. In "Blue eyes at Night," Aaron eventually accepts a mission that he understands is probably going to get him killed. It's a suicide attempt for a person who is too much of a survivor to ever fall on a sword or fashion his own noose. The other interesting thing about a situational suicide attempt is that it could potentially produce the opportunity for redemption.
I also like how he apparently got Mila Kunis for the cover!
Pick up your copy of "Blue Eyes at Night" here.