Goodreads: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes
Series: Peter Nimble #1
Blinded as a baby, ten-year-old Peter Nimble now lives as a thief. Then one day he is given the opportunity to rescue a kingdom ruled by a tyrant usurper. Armed with a box that contains three pairs of magical eyes, Peter and his new friends will go on a quest to do the impossible.
Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes is a story that delights in stories. From the opening pages when it plays readers’ knowledge of tropes to its little nod to the storytelling tradition in the form of a ship called the Scop, the book announces its interest in announcing the importance of stories. It can sometimes feel a little heavy-handed and not always relevant thematically. However, it still feels interesting. The book is part novel, part oral story. It wants to take on the form of the stories it celebrates.
Notably, the book often takes time away from the plot for the author to speak to the reader or for the author to provide background information in a way that feels reminiscent of a story told aloud. In oral stories there is not time to introduce large chunks of information over a period of time, nor to make it livelier by making it form a part of a dialogue. Instead, oral storytelling allows the storyteller to explain the current state of affairs and how it got there. It also allows the storyteller to look ahead and explain future consequences or events. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes occasionally works in this format, stepping away from the quests and the battles and the thievery simply to talk. It feels…weird. The novel and the oral story do not really fit together. And yet I cannot help but admire Jonathan Auxier for trying.
When the book is being a novel, it is full of action. Peter and his friends are on a quest to topple a tyrannical usurper, sometimes with trickery and sometimes with cold steel. There is a lot of blood–this is an upper middle-grade book for sure, and probably not for younger readers. But the story succeeds where it does because it refuses to condescend to its readers. Courage requires sacrifice. Battles mean death. But sometimes, the book suggests, there are battles that are worth the cost.
I admire Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener much more. It seems more structurally sound and very expertly brings on the chills. Still, it is interesting to read Auxier’s debut novel. It bears his signature–the dark matter, the compelling world. His style simply needed a little time to mature.