From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Thief Eyes by Janni Lee Simner

Review by Cynthia Ward

Haley’s from toasty Tucson, but she’s spending the summer in chilly Iceland with her volcanologist father. Her mother disappeared on the island last summer, when she and Haley’s father were working there. Wandering the rift valley where Amanda was last seen, Haley doesn’t find her missing parent. Instead, she finds an oddly warm coin and answers an unseen woman’s question.

When Haley meets her father’s local collaborator, Katrin Jonsdottir, she learns the reason for her mother’s disappearance: her father was having an affair with Katrin. But, it turns out, that’s not the only reason Amanda vanished. The other reason is that magic is real, and Amanda triggered an ancient spell cast by her infamous ancestor, Hallgerd, a treacherous Icelandic sorceress. The curse consumed Amanda.

The curse should have ended with Amanda’s destruction; it has not. If Haley is to avoid her mother’s fate, she must return the accursed coin to the long-dead sorceress. Haley generally deals with problems by running away from them; but you can’t run away from magic. So she falls—literally—into a world out of myth.

Recovering from the resulting injuries to her body and mind, Haley is joined in her quest to break the spell by Katrin’s disturbingly attractive son, Ari. Haley and Ari discover they’ve been forgotten by the mortal world. And Haley makes an unwise bargain with a fire spirit. Now, Hallgerd’s ancient spell won’t just consume Haley if it’s not broken. It will destroy the world.

Janni Lee Simner follows up her acclaimed YA debut novel, the post-apocalyptic urban fantasy Bones of Faerie, with Thief Eyes, a decided change of pace. Choosing a setting rarely seen in English-language YA fiction, Simner brings the remote, quake-racked island vividly to life (perhaps too vividly, if you hate earthquakes, or the sensation of rain sliding inside your collar). She inhabits her Iceland with complex, sympathetic characters who pay steep costs for the actions of others and themselves. She skillfully blends ancient Icelandic legend (specifically, Njal’s Saga) and Scandinavian myth with the modern world. In sum, Thief Eyes is a timeless fantasy significantly different from, but as impressive as, Bones of Faerie.

Thief Eyes
Janni Lee Simner
ISBN: 978-0-375-86670-8
272 pages | Hardcover | $16.99 US

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