In Grey Eyes, Frank Christopher Busch takes the reader back to a pre-contact aboriginal society. At the start of the novel, a grey-eyed child known as Little Grey Bear Boy is born; his birth changes everything for the seven clans of the Nehiyawak, or the Cree people. The Grey Eyes have magical powers, which protect them against their enemies, the evil Red Eyes, who remain a constant threat. The seven clans and their matriarchal leaders suspect the birth of the grey-eyed child will guide their group into a more peaceful time.
Busch, a Cree writer originally from Northern Manitoba, draws on aboriginal mythology and history to create a narrative that appears, to a contemporary reader, almost like a fantasy story. The novel features a huge cast of characters, but Busch is able to create distinctive characterizations, such that the reader never feels lost or confused, and the family tree at the front of the book helps track the clans. The author intersperses Cree words in a way that makes it easy for a non-speaker to understand. Still, the book could have benefitted from a small glossary.
Busch creates a lively story that will draw the reader into the plight of a people. The narrative, which mimics oral history, unfolds in direct, plain language that should appeal to both adult and young-adult audiences. One fault is the dialogue, which is a bit too on-point and wooden. Too often, the characters’ speech serves as an information dump, rather than an approximation of actual conversation. But this fault aside, Grey Eyes marks a promising debut, and a worthwhile addition to the canon of Canadian indigenous literature.