Monday, December 10, 2012

"Eyes to See" by Joseph Nassise-- Best When Horrific

~Official Synopsis

 Jeremiah Hunt's life has fallen apart in the months since his daughter's disappearance. Once a happily married and respected Harvard classics professor, Hunt's obsessive search for his daughter Elizabeth has cost him his job, wife and reputation. In a last desperate attempt to discover Elizabeth's fate, Hunt performs an arcane ritual that robs him of his eyesight in order to see "that which is unseen." Now, he can see what others cannot: ghosts and other pernicious creatures of the night. Using his new gift, Hunt embarks on a strange new career and begins to earn a meager living by chasing away the wayward spirits that torment the living. 

 With the help of his ghostly companions, Whisper and Scream, he searches for clues to Elizabeth's fate... until he falls into a trap laid for him by a particularly cunning foe and winds up accused of committing a series of brutal murders. What begins as a quest to save his daughter turns into a desperate search for truth. But his search will lead him to an all-consuming battle against an ageless, malevolent force that would use a father's love for his daughter to set itself free. If Hunt can't stop it, his adversary's terrible revenge will destroy him, Elizabeth, and countless other innocents.

When I picked up Eyes to See by Joseph Nassise I thought it was simply another boilerplate urban fantasy. But the first chapter quickly dispelled my first impressions by delivering some good old-fashioned horror that could have been straight out of "The Exorcist." If only the whole book had continued with that format.

"Eyes to See" has garnered some comparisons to The Dresden Files, and I suppose I can kinda, sorta understand where people are coming from in that both series' are in an urban setting with characters that can perform magic. But Jeremiah Hunt is a very different character than Harry Dresden. Driven by the death of his daughter, Hunt isn't the kind of magic practitioner you see in most urban fantasy. He's not a private investigator or some kind of magical problem solver. His only real purpose is to find out what happened to the little girl that was kidnapped from her own home. Hunt does consult on hard-to-solve cases with the local police department, but it's only on a quid-pro-quo basis to give him access to information regarding his daughter. If he has to do any work to pay the bills it's in the form of using his uncanny ability to see ghosts and banish them from the living world.

"Eyes to See" succeeds most when Nassise goes for the horror story that comes with exorcising ghosts. It's a naturally creepy device and Nassise seems to have a natural flair for capitalizing on those little moments that send chills up your spine. The main conceit of the story is the fact that Jeremiah gives up his temporal vision in order to gain some insight into the world of the uncanny, and it's a device that works most of the time. The character is given something of a work-around, in that he can mostly see in the dark, as well as having the ability to partner with his ghostly companions in way that gives him mundane sight when he needs it. I didn't always love that tweaking of Hunt's disability because it was too easy for the story to slip into a narrative that seemed to forget that Hunt shouldn't be able to see in certain moments and hyper-focus on his inability in others and it tends to interrupt any sense of continuity.

Other aspects of the story also seemed as if they were introduced only to make the book adhere to an urban-fantasy template. Hunt starts out as a loner, but midway through the book he partners up with a hedge-witch and a Were and the relationships seem to gel unnaturally fast. By the end of the book there is a loyalty that didn't flow from a natural progression as the secondary characters are only developed in the sketchiest manner and I couldn't quite buy-into that part of the story. Also the hedge-witch is too powerful: often a simple "cantrip" is all that seems to be needed for her to save Jeremiah from just about anything. Another glaring inconsistency exists in the character of Hunt's ex-wife Anne. In the beginning of the book there are hints that the disappearance of their daughter created such a rift that Anne had become vindictive, but the storyline never plays out in that way. That isn't to say I wanted the story to go in that direction, but when the basic plot is laid out in what feels like a black-and-white fashion, it's really noticeable when it doesn't materialize the way it's set-up to unfold.

When "Eyes to See" goes for the ghost story, it's really good. There are a lot of places that Nassise could take this series and the foundation is essentially set in this first book. Hunt's character is a jerk when he needs to be, though his loyalty could never be questioned, and I liked that he was allowed to have friction with some of the other characters. But Hunt's interactions with the other side of death are when this book shines most.  Overall I have to say that I liked "Eyes to See" more for the potential I saw in the story than the actual execution. It's more of an idea book that loses points thanks to too many inconsistencies. That said, I'm still interested in reading the just-released sequel, King of the Dead, just to see if the next book is able to build on the promise shown in the first. Hopefully The Jeremiah Hunt Chronicles will move beyond the idea stage in the second book and really develop into the great series I know it could be.

3 out of 5 stars


Charles Gramlich said...

Really like the title. This sounds like something I would like a lot.

SQT said...

The cover is cool too. I can see you liking this. The story needs some tightening up, but lots of potential there.

David said...

Hmmm.Maybe need to put this on my Christmas list