K.S. Villoso – Jaeth’s Eye

The lives of a mercenary, a seamstress, and a merchant converge. Kefier, who is picking up the pieces of his life after his brother’s accident, finds himself chased down by former associates for his friend’s death. Already once branded a murderer, he crosses paths with his friend’s sister, Sume, whose only desire is to see her family through some troubled times. In the meantime, young, arrogant Ylir takes a special interest in Kefier while he himself is entangled in a battle with a powerful mage, one whose name has been long forgotten in legend. At the crux of their conflict is a terrible creature with one eye, cast from the womb of a witch, with powers so immense whoever possesses it holds the power to bring the continent to its knees.

Jaeth’s Eye introduces an epic fantasy tale of revenge and lost kingdoms, but also of grief, love, hope, and a promise for tomorrow.

I found the concept of K.S. Villoso’s Jaeth’s Eye quite captivating when I read it: what would an epic fantasy told not from the vantage point of the high and mighty, but from those on the lower ranks of society look like? What would it be like for those who aren’t the ones making the decisions, who can only endure what is thrown at them, trying to live their lives as well as possible? Would this create a narrative of people who feel helpless and lost, without any agency of their own? To me that question of the characters’ sense of agency was the one that felt most important and it was one that reverberated throughout the narrative. Because the answer was it’s both people who feel helpless and lost, but also people who still have agency and make their own choices. 

For many of the characters, most notably Sume, Dai, and Hana — and to an even greater extent Kefier — there is certainly a sense that things happen to them, that they are forced to face certain events due to outside actors that put choices before them that only they can make. In Hana’s case it’s the loss of her husband, for her entire family the loss of their home, for Sume it is the decision to get on board Ylir’s ship to save Day. Hana seems to largely just flow with the tide, going where it takes her, never really feeling in control. Sume, in contrast, definitely takes any control she can, choosing her destiny where she can and holding fast to her choices, even if they lead her to unexpected outcomes.

Kefier also tries to control his fate and regain agency, but he is literally sidelined for the most important choices he needs to make. In fact he isn’t even conscious at the time. His frustration and stubborn persistence to keep going, bubbles up time and again. And where Sume seems to succeed in steering her own fate, every time Kefier seems to get a grasp on the wheel, he is pushed off course again. His connection and conflict with Ylir was particularly intriguing in this way. Especially once we learn the full truth about their identities, it is bittersweet and poignant how they reconnect.

I really liked how the different story lines intersected and how the characters discovered they were previously connected. We also get glimpses of the larger epic battle going on in the background and the backstory of the conflict. I do wonder whether in the long run Ylir and Kefier aren’t more important to the resolution of the large scale conflict than would be suggested by the conceit of the book that it is epic fantasy told from the point of view of peripheral characters. Still, that could be seen as being swept up in larger events and not as them being powerfully important in a decision-making sense. I guess the only way to find out will be by reading the rest of the trilogy!

While my favourite character was Sume, some of the most powerful passages in the novel are the interludes featuring Hana, as they show what happens to those left behind. The pain and loss there, the struggle of moving on, of not knowing what happened to her husband and son were heart-breaking.

I really loved Jaeth’s Eye, but I’ve found it hard to write a coherent review of it, precisely because its premise is so different. It is hard to pull together all the threads and trains of thought. There is a lot there with elements that should be examined more closely, such as its diversity and the fact that this isn’t your typical Western-European based medieval fantasy setting, far from it in fact. As it stands the best I can do is tell you to read the book, because it is definitely worth your time and besides all of this it is really well-written and a good read. The entire trilogy called The Agartes Epilogues is out now and I really recommend you give this wonderfully complex and original take on epic fantasy a shot.

This book was provided for review by the author.