The magic is leaving the Green Isles. The Summerlord Hafarl's staff has been broken, and the Everwinter is coming to blanket the islands in snow forever. To make matters worse, the Vikings are raiding up and down the shore, laying waste to everything in their way. It's up to Puretongue, leader of the dhruides, to weld together the last scraps of the Summerlord's power that can be found in the people to create a defense against Lothan, and bring summer and magic back to the isles.
Eyes Like Leaves is well-paced, and the action scenes flash with energy. Charles de Lint shows signs of the bardic gift in his ability to make scenes come alive, especially the chase scene with the direwolves pursuing the tinker caravan.
While the characters are interesting and detailed, and individual scenes are beautifully written, the plot is oddly flat and lacks originality. This feels like a too-literal retelling of classical Irish mythology, without enough innovation to be fresh or exciting. It seems a little too scripted, with each character arriving just when needed, and advancing the plot in exactly the right direction. While terrible things do happen, there is not a great sense of tension -- just a sense of inevitability.
This book proves to me that talent is not the sole ingredient of success. Eyes Like Leaves is well-written, but I never actually cared about the story. I never felt emotionally connected to the characters. While there is nothing overtly bad about the story, there is little here to merit recommending it above all the other quest fantasy novels that have been published.
Eyes Like Leaves is actually one of the first books Charles de Lint wrote, but it has never before been published. His editor told him that having published two secondary world fantasy novels, and one urban novel, that the next novel he published would pigeonhole him. He put this manuscript on the shelf and published Yarrow instead, putting his feet firmly on the urban fantasy path, a decision that I, and legions of his other fans, are grateful for. He recently reworked Eyes Like Leaves and released it for publication. This is obviously not de Lint at his peak, but there are the glimmers of greatness here that he has realized in his later works. I would recommend this book for fans of Irish mythology and de Lint completionists.