Now, this is my first review I’ve done where I wasn’t just ranting, so try to bear with me here. I’m going to try to give you the gist of the book, and tell you my feelings on it without giving too much in spoilers, but if a spoiler slips, sorry, I’ll try harder next time.
The story starts off with the main protagonist, Danny North. Him and his family are the ancestors of the beings we once considered gods. About 14 centuries ago, the one they call Loki closed the “gate” to their home-world. Supposedly, for all god sounding names, there are actually a few of them… meaning many Lokies, many Zeuses, etc, the ones that take the position that that name held, takes the name (this concept is used mostly as a bit of a red-herring, so that you might not think that the Loki we’re talking about in the whole story, is the same one in the whole story… but I actually figured it out from the first moment he was mentioned, so, not much of a spoiler there). When this gate was closed by Loki (for reasons that were never fully revealed, but left open as a thing to look into for the next book in the series), it cut off the rest of the “gods” from their home-world, it weekend their abilities (where they come from, “magic” is common, but the gates have healing properties, and the bigger the gate is, apparently, the more the properties, so, the Great Gate—the one that got them from one world to the next—was able to amp up their power).
So, Danny, at start, is 13 years old and living with his “family” on a compound in western Virginia completely isolated from the rest of the world (more so than the rest of western Virginia). And it would seem that Danny has yet to discover what power he’s capable of, and anyone without a power would of’course be one of those powerless humans that they were trying to stay separated from, and their for, not worth keeping around. With the though of possibly being cast out or even killed looming over Danny’s head, he tries to make use of himself by helping to watch over the other kids and help them as he can work on their own powers, and in his spare time, he sneaks away unseen, beneath the watch of the animals and plants, from the compound to watch those dreaded humans, fantasizing about having their lives.
After a bit of long winded and somewhat overly drawn out blah-blah-blahs, Danny suddenly discovered that his abilities to hide, and escape, and get from place to place unseen was actually because he was instinctively creating gates. Surprised and amazed, this leaves him both excited, because he now knows he isn’t as below his people as he was raise to think, and terrified, because his people have a treaty with all the other “gods” in the world to kill any “gate mages.” The reasons for the treaty is somewhat mixed, and a bit confusing: some of it is because they’re just pissed at Loki about his bit and this is their way of dealing with the grudge; some of it is because they fear the other families getting a huge advantage over them and crushing them in war—which of’course this is why he’s left to live (apparently certain members of his family actually knew about his power the whole time, but were keeping it a secret), so he could figure out how to re-open the Great Gate, and let them take over the world.
So, he flees the compound with his newfound power, meets a kid, Eric, in the back of a Wal-mart who pulls him in as a student in his craft of living on the streets. Pan forward, we’re in DC, and they’ve been begging from ride to ride since. Danny does some site-seeing and learns more about a Loki, and… oops, new buddy saw you gate, and now he wants in on the bit. So, we’re house thieves now. But we can’t be house thieves without a place to stay for some reason, so let’s ask that guy which will be convenient later (but told in telling and not showing, so you won’t actually pick up on the convenience until it happens). So, we have a place to stay, and create an extremely awkward moment of Danny being somewhat raped (there are a couple of odd sexual moments in this book, keep that in mind if you are thinking Danny’s age should be setting the age-groups of readers—in other words, only get this for your 13 year-old if you want to explain to them what “spilled his seed on her belly” means… or worse, have them explain it to you). He gets discovered by their creepy landlord, and we move on.
He robs one house. “Oh, look, we found the only house in the whole damn city of DC with a dead body… super.” So, put everything back. Try again later. They rob an entire neighborhood, and things go bad with the pawnshop guy in need of therapy. Danny does crazy gate stuff, and they get out with enough money for Danny and Eric to split ways (because you can only come across so much bad luck with a guy ‘til you take a hint).
Back to creepy landlord guy, turns out he’s a mage too, not a very useful one, but a mage. The house, it is actually a mage attracter (his power makes flowers give off funky mage vibes that draws them in). His rapist wasn’t a mage, she was just really slutty, but her husband is apparently a mage (that’s sort’of important later—but barely, because he was barely introduced as a significant character, OSC was having too much fun introducing the wife). Landlord give Danny info to find people that can teach him in the ways of gate mage, so he goes there.
He meets the mages, and their useless in gates—but they teach him to become a real boy… still a real shut-in boy, but real (at least this is the point we’re trying to get at with this bit). Pan forward, Danny eventually runs in to a gate mage that only has the power to open gates already made (she found him by following all his gates, and he literally ran into her). So we babble on for pages about figuring out gates. And we pan forward, Danny’s almost old enough to drive, “he needs a car so he can be a normal kid, let’s get him one, and hope he doesn’t notice that he’s still a shut-in… with nowhere to go, but at least has a car… but hey, it’s for the girls…” “But Ma’ and Pa’, all I wanna do is go to school like a real boy.” “Well, Danny, that’s crazy, we don’t want you to be exposed to real people and be normal and get a girl, we just want you to be get a girl.” So, Danny’s in highschool, and for reason I don’t understand, he’s in the closest possible highschool to his family’s compound there was (which is oddly less significant than you’d think).
In his quest to be a real highschool boy without powers, he immediately shows off all his powers and kicks himself as everyone notices. “Everybody just got magically healed from all embarrassing teenager problems at the very moment that you showed up!” “Odd coincidence…” Keeping in mind, he’s within a stone-throw’s distance from people that want to kill him while he’s doing the stuff that makes them want to kill him. So, he shows off one last time, and about two days of highschool life, he’s exposed. “Run, Danny, run!” “Aw, she’s teaching me how to close my gates now… and I made her cry.” New friend says she’s a gate mage that only knows how to lock gates (convenient), explains to Danny that he accidentally made a mini-Great Gate before he started running all over, Danny face-palms, and then gets all his other mage buddies together and make a Great Gate.
Now, we tie into the parallel story that gets woven through the book, but I didn’t bother saying anything about ‘til now because almost the whole thing is completely pointless up until now—at most, it’s just what exposes the red-herring right off the bat. The story was about an amnesiac Loki back at the gods’ home-world. He goes through one of the most moronic take over plots I’ve ever seen and fails, and at the worst moment to fail, because, “holy’crap, where’d my power just go.” Danny just went all up in side you, made you his bitch, and left you sloppy (that is really about how it went). More stuff happens before and after all this, but none of it means anything to anything… except Loki internal dialogues a slight hint that the reason he closed the Great Gate will be the bad guy in next book.
So, back to Danny’s world… family saw the crazy happening, and came to put the smack down. Danny and his mage friend slapped them around and made them cry and story ends.
Over all feelings about the book. The whole thing was way too much set-up for a next book and not enough actual story for this one. Normally, when writing a series, you want to start off the first book so it’s relatively capable of surviving on its own. This book unfortunately reminded me of a review I read from a friend about Part 1 of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows,’ basically, the whole thing was spent in a tent… it was nothing but set up for stuff that will be important in the next volume, but not that important now. And this was even worse, it was nothing but explaining everything. A rule that has been passed around the writing world often when it comes to explanation of things (such as how the magic system works, etc): sometimes it’s better to explain nothing than to risk explaining too much—this would have been a good time for OSC to follow this rule, we could have skipped the whole first volume, and started with the second.
So, rating… I haven’t really worked out my rating system yet, but for now, we’re staying with the over-all 5-star system—it’s old fashioned, but it works. I’m giving this one 3 out of 5, and I’m teetering on that one, and I’m not sure in which direction. My judgment on this is largely based on just disappointment in OSC, I’ve read a lot of his work, and I know what he’s capable of, and this wasn’t it. Granted, I’ve read worse from him (don’t bother with ‘Empire,’ I won’t even review that mess), but still, there was just so much explaining, and way too many moments of telling and not showing—mostly as a result of all the explaining—as there was just no story—there were attempts at two different stories in the whole book, and they both just didn’t come out as anymore than explanation. The concepts it spent the whole time introducing are relatively interesting, and I’m sure they will be fun to play with in the next book(s), but as for this one, you might be just as well off skipping this one and waiting for the next one, or just getting this one later and using it as a companion guide (although, a wiki page would probably summarize it better).
As for the future of the Book Reviews, I am presently reading ‘Fable: Blood Ties,’ by Peter David, ‘Elantris,’ by Brandon Sanderson, and ‘Learn to Love Me,’ by Sinead MacDuglas. ‘Elantris’ has some age on it, so I probably wont do a review on that, if i do, it will be brief. ‘Learn to Love Me,’ stands a good chance of getting a review just because promoting friends in their writing is just the right thing to do. ‘Fable: Blood Ties,’ I don’t know… something about reviewing a commercial novel bugs me, even if Peter David does write them well enough to make you forget that it’s a commercial, but we’ll see where it goes.
- Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: Reaper’s Gale, Chapter Sixteen (tor.com)
- the Future of the Reviews (anthonyricher.wordpress.com)
- Character Sketch: Damon (powerclubnovel.wordpress.com)
- Highly Anticipated Fantasy Novels of 2013 (archeddoorway.com)
- Writer’s Wednesday: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (rebekkaksteg.com)
- Orson Scott Card on Copyright (lowestofthekeys.wordpress.com)
- Review: The Hum and the Shiver (nicofeld.com)
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (lennymaysay.wordpress.com)
- The Abyss, Orson Scott Card (booksjadore.wordpress.com)
- Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card (in which I sheepishly admit I enjoy books about time travel) (annebronkema.wordpress.com)