My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In his introduction, Charles De Lint states that “Eyes Like Leaves” was written and originally submitted for publication at a time when his fantasy career was at a crossroads. If he published “Leaves” he could be lumped into the category of writing standard fantasy instead of the urban fantasy for which he’s become known. De Lint decided to delay publishing the book and worked on his next urban fantasy project.
So reading “Eyes Like Leaves” is an experiment in what could have been–not only for de Lint’s career in the fantasy genre but also for readers and fans of his works. The story is your fairly standard epic fantasy story with various people battling an imposing threat coming over the magical realm. And while it all works well and there are hints and echoes of what de Lint does so well in his other urban fantasy novels, I can’t help but find myself a bit relieved that he chose the urban fantasy route instead of the conventional fantasy route.
The story works, the characters work and the novel is entertaining enough. But somehow it is missing that essential element and voice that set de Lint’s novels apart from his other contemporaries. And while I can’t say that he wouldn’t have developed that same voice over time (thankfully, de Lint resists the urge to edit the story or polish it one more time, truly giving us a taste of what might have been), it still feels as though something is missing here.