So I got Kindle Unlimited for my birthday and I’ve really been digging it. If you read a lot of ebooks (like me) this is worth every penny (or not if you get it for a gift like me). With it, I made a promise to try and read books in new genres or self-published books. Since the service doesn’t limit the amount of books I can read (or borrow), I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to expand or just see what the quality is like for self-published authors. That’s what “Keeper of the Eye” is, a book by a self-published writer (I have a whole blog about book publishing that serves as a good companion to this review, so go check that out).
I hate writing negative reviews. I really do. Some people feel safe doing it because they think “well this author has thousands of reviews, they’ll never see mine”. The fact is they might. This is even more a possibility when books are published by smaller publishing houses, are debut authors, or from self-published authors. But I honestly couldn’t abstain from reviewing this book either just because my rating is low. When reviews can be artificially boosted by friends, family, or paid reviews, sometimes you need those “bad” ratings to show a different take on the reading experience and to show readers if this book, if this story, is even worth their time. And I don’t believe “The Keeper of the Eye” is.
Shane had a decent enough idea but it becomes really clear really fast that this guy loves King Arthur stories even without reading his bio. Shane attempts to make his own version of Arthur but in maybe his haste to get to the “good parts” he never creates unique characters. The sage old wizard (named Max? Come on, if you’re going to have a high fantasy book with fantasy names, you can’t just throw in a “Max” or “Sam” and have it keep the reader immersed in the story) reads just like the teenagers Garren and Michael. And the romance between Michael and Falon feels forced because you never actually witness how these two fell in love to begin with. They just kind of woke up one day and seemed to have fallen for one another?
Writing for different genders is hard, the same can be said for cultures that you do not share. But I don’t think the author even had a woman read this book. If he did, I struggle to believe that a woman would approve that every woman in the book works as a maid in a tavern and looks to jump the main characters bones. Nor do I think they would have taken kindly to the occasions where he turns his only female character into a pouty damsel in distress. Just because you say she’s an expert assassin (which never really gets proved. I need more than just a “trust me, she’s an assassin” for me to really buy that) doesn’t mean you can get away with writing such a stereotypical character. One who needs constant saving, and who is often called a “foolish woman” while not in dialogue. I know this happens, but really, have your wife, or mom, or sister, or female friend read this thing first before you go full force into something like that. And if you do, make it a very deliberate choice. One that is meant to show something of the world. This, fortunately or unfortunately, was not that.
The whole book was an odd mixture of an info dump while not really giving me a good sense of who was who or why they were doing anything. I know Shane meant for it to be this twist ending but it just came off as overly convenient and sloppy. No one lives their whole life not being able to cast magic and then suddenly someone tells them they can and BOOM! They are an expert. No one lives as a carpenter their whole life and then gets a magical, fabled sword and is suddenly fit to rule. Give me a training montage or something! Shane makes a lot of promises to the reader in this book and none get solved or answered and I needed some answers in this book to have faith that others would be answered in a second.
But see what I mean about the Arthur story? Sword in the stone anybody? Also, the book is steeped in Christian “mythology” if you will. This is no C.S. Lewis either in terms of religious metaphors. This lacked Lewis’s subtle touch and creative flare. Shane makes the savior a carpenter. A carpenter! One who is chosen by God! Or, sorry, the Creator. Though Shane did miss a few instances where he mixes up God and Creator.
This is what I mean about doing research about the right way to self-publish. Get an editor. They may not be free but are worth every penny. Or at the least, a beta reader who will read through your manuscript and at least catch the typos, the inconsistencies, the places where you mix up your deity name, or just someone to tell you “Hey, this part here, you may want to change it”. I will always forgive a few typos in published books. No editor is perfect and even if you have a team of them working on your book, something can sometimes slip through the cracks. But when you have an unoriginal story that is a mash-up of several fantasy books we’ve all read before, forgettable characters, and an unconvincing romance, the typos, no matter how small or otherwise innocent, become all the more noticeable.
You know the worst part? The worst part is I wanted to like this book. I really did! The beginning seemed so promising. But that was so short lived when the story got away from the author. Maybe because of the sequel he wants to write. But I was so unsatisfied that I don’t care to read the next book. I don’t care to find out why there’s a talking wolf and dragon pledged to Michael. How Falon suddenly transformed into a mage through love or something, or who the robed figure is who only shows up at the beginning and the end vowing to let out the devil. Which is too bad. On the face of things, those are worthy questions to answer. But I don’t trust Shane to deliver.
I’m not sad I read it. It was a worthwhile experience to see the kind of caliber a self-published author can achieve. I’ll keep reading self-published writers because I do not believe Shane is the norm for indie authors (as this Goodreads article shows). Shane needs a good editor to help with his typos and plot holes, then his story will be able to show its true colors. Still, I couldn’t in good faith recommend this book and felt compelled to leave a 1 star review.