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The Eyes of a King: The Last Descendants #1    by Catherine Banner order for
Eyes of a King
by Catherine Banner
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Catherine Banner's debut novel is the first in her Last Descendants trilogy, set in a land called Malonia and also a parallel universe of modern-day England (Angel Land) where motorcars, electricity, and in-home conveniences backdrop Malonia's horses, oil lamps, and out-of-house inconveniences.

Fifteen-year old Leo North lives with his younger brother Stirling and loving grandmother Margaret. Leo has innate powers but keeps them concealed to avoid being considered an enemy of the state, which is governed by a dictatorship. Tyrant Lucien Kalitz took power from the royal family of Donahues after a rebellion. Malonia factories concentrate on producing bullets instead of necessities, and food is becoming scarce. Leo and Stirling attend a military academy overseen by cruel masters, especially Sergeant Markey who despises the North family.

Leo's father Harry North was an acclaimed writer; his book, The Golden Reign - about the royal family and a prophecy of Aldebaran (Leo's great-uncle who was exiled) - sold hundreds of thousands of copies. The book was banned and the new government ordered the burning of the second print run. Leo has secretly retained a copy, keeping it hidden even from his grandmother. He was eight when his parents fled the country. Seven years have passed since then.

Powerful magicians have been forced into hiding or exile, but for one the evil Talitha. The Donahue royals were murdered during Lucien Kalitz's coup. Rumors swirled that the newly-born prince survived and was exiled to fabled England. Before the revolution, peaceful Malonia fostered creative writing, dancing, and singing, as well as a deep respect for 'the great magicians'. Hopes were never lost that the wealth and good fortune of Malonia would be restored once again. As years went by, however, hope ebbed and the prophecy was viewed as a mere fairytale. Now Kalitztad soldiers fight at the border of Malonia and Alcyria.

When Leo discovers a blank book in the snowy street, he senses a strange aura, and the book never stays where he placed it last. Events haunt Leo even in his dreams, and he often feels a presence. The book's mysterious writing provides information connected to North family secrets, the history of Malonia, and a saga of exiled (to England) Ryan and his growing love for Anna. They are connected by similar necklaces. Leo is overtaken with grief at an unexpected tragic loss, and ghost-walks while drifting into a self-imposed silence, only communicating through notes on paper. Local priest Father Dunstan attempts to console and encourages acceptance of what has happened.

Catherine Banner's promising future became visible when she began writing this book at age fourteen in 2003. The Eyes of a King is a read to be reckoned with, filled with mystery and suspense, love and hate, heartache, cruelty and danger. The novel looks hard at choices that are offered versus the decisions that are made. It is a story to get lost in, burning the midnight oil, with an ending that will cause readers to anxiously await the second book, Voices in the Dark.

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