Michael Pang, 219 pgs, intheeyesofmadness.com, $11.51
Michael Pang is perhaps more interesting than his own creation, — a self-described “project manager by profession [and] modern Renaissance man by nature,” he’s just as active in the inner workings of In the Eyes of Madness as any of his characters are, using a young adult mental-health-meets-supernatural-pulp narrative to forward a set of non-denominational Christian beliefs. For all his protagonist’s hemming and hawing over the merits of orthodox Christianity, he comes up against the unavoidable validity of Christian ideals in Pang’s imagined universe, where fortune favours the believer, and unexplained white lights emanate from those who pray regularly.
When it comes to young adult fantasy, In the Eyes of Madness‘s actual story arc is par for the course. Declan is an orphan boy, growing up parentless after his mother’s mental illness convinced her to attempt drowning him at age seven. Through interactions with childhood friends and mysterious acquaintances, Declan comes to realize that there is more to his family history than he once believed. Perhaps this emerging supernatural world of angels, demons, and everything between can help him discover what really happened with his parents all those years ago, and what might become of him today.
Pang’s prose is novice, but he counteracts this with the ability to keep a plot moving at a comfortable pace. If YA fantasy is your preference, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy In the Eyes of Madness to some extent — it checks all the required boxes, and Pang’s religious devotion is foreign enough to the genre to keep things interesting. As a piece of writing, though, the novel is weak, even if that says nothing about its ability to entertain. If it means anything, I’ll be keeping an eye out for the sequel, just to see if Declan and Kiera ever finally hook up. (Joel W. Vaughan)