Eyes of Crow
Jeri Smith-Ready’s first novel for the Luna imprint, Eyes of Crow, is an accessible read about a young woman dealing with her powers about knowing when Death comes to a person’s door. That said, the plot isn’t altogether exciting, and the heroine can best be described as somewhat dull.
Rhia possesses the powers of the Crow spirit to know if someone will live or die – and if he will live, how he will later die. When she was eight, she stopped her mother from laying down their old dog. She told her mother that it wasn’t his time yet, that he would die fighting a wolf. Two years later, the dog died in exactly the way Rhia said. Later when Rhia is fifteen, the village council leader takes her to his bedridden older brother. In a voice coming from her body but that is not her own, she commands the invalid to get out of bed. His family and Rhia are overjoyed when he manages to do so, but Rhia’s joy turns to horror when she sees a vision of the man’s future death in battle.
Hatred of her powers makes Rhia refuse to undergo training to learn them, a decision that haunts her two years later when a tragic death occurs that could have been eased by a person harnessing Crow magic. She finally agrees to travel to another village to receive training from the Crow woman living there and meets up with Marek, a man sent from the other village to escort her there. Marek has trouble controlling his Wolf powers, which results in funny and interesting interactions between them. Because of the cold of the night, Marek covers Rhia’s body with his body to keep them warm. Tension builds due to their bodies’ closeness, and they succumb to passion.
In addition to the fantasy and romantic aspects of the novel, Eyes of Crow is also an absorbing character drama about Rhia and individuals living in both villages. The cast of secondary characters were distinctive and vividly drawn, and I enjoyed many of their characterizations. Author Smith-Ready wrote some nice, gentle humor, which made me chuckle and which lightened up an otherwise grave story.
The setting has a vague Native American feel; the people of these villages revere animal spirits and possess animal magical powers. The villagers of Rhia’s home village farm, hunt, and keep sheep and ponies, while the villagers where Marek lives are hunters and foragers. They both seem simple, rural societies. There are also anonymous outsiders, city dwellers, who knot their hair, wear velvet waistcoats, and carry long swords. In spite of the fact that Smith-Ready did not mention a time or a place for her world and it was never clear enough for me to pin down, it was an easy to follow, accessible, and interesting one.
The focus, of course, is Rhia and her coming to grips with her powers. It is understandable that she has a hard time accepting them. She still mourns the loss of her childhood sweetheart from her village, and it is nice that she gets a second chance at love with Marek.
Although Rhia and Marek become lovers in an amazingly short time, anyone who reads Marek’s character can see why. He’s an open, easy-going, and instantly appealing man. I liked him enormously; he’s a great Beta hero. Seemingly, without any effort, he creates a wonderful rapport with Rhia and relieves many fears she has. Marek isn’t perfect; he feels he failed someone in the past, and his terrible guilt makes him unable to control his powers. Falling in love with Rhia and being committed to their fledging relationship is giving him another chance at love as well.
While Marek was an instantly likable and interesting character, Rhia was not so. It’s one thing to have a hard time accepting such morbid powers; it’s another to deny them, which results in the needless suffering of a dying person and depriving a whole community of those powers. It’s also another thing to run away when the going gets tough, as Rhia later does. She does show courage some time after that, but it felt a little too late for me. Also, Rhia seems flat compared to the secondary characters, and I couldn’t see what attracted Marek to her in the first place. She’s young and slim with curly auburn hair, but no one mentions her as beautiful, and she doesn’t come across engagingly on the page.
For a change of pace, the first third of Eyes of Crow sags rather than the middle as is more usual, but a dramatic action subplot livens up my interest to the very end, enough to earn the “+” in its final average grade. For readers who enjoy Luna’s Fantasy/Romance hybrids, Jeri Smith-Ready’s debut for the imprint (she has one other published book to her credit) is a solid read and one that came close enough for me to check out her next book.