Thursday, January 19, 2012
Ancient Eyes by David Niall Wilson
When "Bram Stoker Award" winning author David Niall Wilson messaged me, I almost fell off my chair. I had read many of his short works in places like Cemetery Dance magazine and other anthologies, but I'd never read any of his novels, so when he offered me the chance, I took it. I chose Ancient Eyes because it was a new one, and the synopsis appealed to me.
Synopsis: There is an ancient evil lurking in the mountains of California. One peak over from Friendly, California, there is another, darker place. In that place there are two churches. Displaced from a time and place far distance, an ancient carving watches from an alcove above the door of a broken down, nearly forgotten church. When the evil it embodies reaches out and snags the soul of Silas Greene, roots creep down into the mountain and out into everything they touch. There is another church on the mountain. It is made of stone, carved into the stone of the mountain, and also all but forgotten.
A message goes out to Abraham Carlson. "He's Back. Come home, boy." When young Abraham returns to the mountain, and to that stone church, a battle is rejoined that should have ended decades in the past. When the cleansing began - and was never completed. The only question is, does Abraham have the strength...or will he, and everyone he loves, fall into the depths of those evil, ancient eyes...
The best word I can use to describe the novel is intense. It pulled me in every night when I sat down to read. David is a master at description and character building, without being overly verbose or repetitive. The characters and setting he created were easily imaginable and at once, familiar. I was drawn along into the story and really wasn't sure how it was going to end. Was good going to win? Or is evil unstoppable? I won't spoil it for you by saying, but I will tell you that the ending is very satisfying.
I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed David's style of writing. It was lyrical and compelling. I had no trouble dropping right back into where I'd left off and I didn't want to put the Kindle down each night (unfortunately falling asleep and dropping it on your head is rather painful) and only did so when my lids began to droop. The story is an old one- good vs. evil, light vs. dark, but he never crossed the line into preaching at the reader. The religion of the good was well done without being overdone and the evil was broodingly malevolent, without being unbelievable. At the heart of the novel are the battles we all face: the struggle between good and bad within ourselves, and the struggle to keep our roots without letting them hold us back.
It may have been the first novel of his I've read, but it will not be the last. I'll hungrily devour more. One last word of warning- if you don't like snakes, prepare to be extremely uncomfortable, because there are a lot of them in the book (obviously representing temptation and evil). I hate snakes. Loathe them. But I made it through with only mild squirming.
I rarely give 5 stars- but this deserves them.