The Gods of Myth have been reduced from their power and turned into a shadow of their former selves. Living in exile among modern-day humans and being forced to rely on their technology, they live a stagnant life. Many have an affinity for a certain magery. Some can talk to beasts, others can make plants grow. There is, however, one type of mage that is killed on sight for fear of their awesome power—the gate mage.
Fourteen centuries ago, Loki sealed off the gates to Westil (the home world), leaving the gods powerless to travel back to their world and refresh their power. To prevent further harm, any gate mage able to create a gate is killed. Danny North has recently discovered that he is a gate mage and is now on the run from his family. In truth, Danny was secretly bred with the hope that he would become a gate mage and restore honor to the North family for Loki’s centuries old treachery.
A Haphazard Plot
While Orson Scott Card’s writing has been praised for being unique and original, I was disappointed in this novel. The story jumped around far too much for my liking, and some things seemed completely implausible when they were put into the novel. Several scenes seemed to be edited in simply to move the story along without much thought to how it would actually fit into the story, which was unfortunate when considering that this came from such a prolific author.
Also, I realized while preparing this review that the basic premise for this book makes no sense. Yes, gate mages have enormous power and they could potentially create a lot of havoc, but they’re also the key to the gods regaining their lost power. So the fact that they would be killing gate mages makes no sense to me, as there’s no more harm they could do than has already been done, whereas if one of enough power came along, they would be able to restore the gods to their previous power.
A Convoluted Magic System
In the beginning of this novel, the rules surrounding the creation of gates are fairly straightforward. The gate mage wills himself to be somewhere else, thus creating a gate—which is something that I appreciated, as it gave more attention to the characters rather than the magic system. However, later on in the story, the magic system becomes confusing and backwards and incredibly hard to follow. Not only does this detract from the story, I had to re-read the passage several times trying to understand exactly how the author had ‘explained’ it, and I never did fully understand. I’m all for expanding upon a magic system to give it new possibilities for the characters, but the addition was far too complicated for a young-adult novel.
Diverse and Fantastic Characters
While the plot and the magic system were lacking, the characters helped make up for it. Orson Scott Card truly does know how to write an amazing cast, and I really was impressed. Not only does he make his characters believable, but he brings them to life off the page. This is something only a few authors are capable of, and it is a fantastic quality to have in a novel.
I particularly enjoyed the character of Wad, a gate mage living in Westil, the primary character from the alternate point of view introduced in the novel. I do wish that the author spent more time on that storyline, as it was far more interesting than Danny’s and full of political intrigue and fantastic plot twists, but the little bit of insight that I got into Wad’s life was worth it.
Why should you read this book?
Overall, this book could have been a lot better. More thought put into the plot and the magic system, as well as a few other tweaks could have done this story a world of good. But despite it all, the redeeming quality is the story itself. Orson Scott Card is a great storyteller, and the story itself is what drew and kept me reading. A worthy read.