Mar 31 2012

Book Review: The Lost Gate By Orson Scott Card

Posted by Mathias in Book Reviews, Fantasy

Warning! May Contain Spoilers!

The Lost Gate is a fantasy novel where the old gods of history were really just mages, albeit powerful mages, who had come to Earth through Great Gates. Here they ruled over the people and often using them to fight wars and settle grudges on their behalf. However, so the Lost Gate’s story goes, years ago a Loki closed all the Great Gates and stranded the once gods here where their powers have been slowly waning. Great premise. That is why I picked this book up and wanted to read it.

The main story centers around Danny, a descendant of the Norse gods, living in seclusion with his family in the backwoods of Virginia. Danny supposedly has no talents at all, making him not much more than a common human and the scorn of the other members of his family who exhibit various skills that are a shadow to what the former gods could accomplish. Then Danny discovers a secret. That secret is that he really is mage. And not just any mage, but a Gate Mage; a Gate Father who is capable of creating gates to anywhere he wants to travel including the original home world of their people. The problem? Gate Mages are to be killed on sight. The story explains why this is and if you want to know why, then go ahead and read it. Danny is sent into self-exile to keep from being killed.

Overall the prose is good. There are many relevant scenes that focus on a young boy coping with both being a young boy and a powerful mage as well as the moral dilemmas his powers pose. The story is well told from those aspects. The problem with this book was that it suffered from a lack of action. The entire book reads almost as if it were a manual designed how to instruct Gate Mages in honing their talents. The book is rife with exposition of Danny learning how to make, control, move, lock, unlock and even finally “spin” a Great Gate. All this drags on drearily from the point where he realizes this is his power to the “climax” at the end. I use the word “climax” generously because what the ending really felt like was that Mr. Card had gotten to a point where he simply wanted to stop the story and needed to wrap things up quickly. If you blinked you would miss the “climax” because it was so short and completed in barely any time. Part of this, I think, comes from the point that Danny is simply too powerful and the system of magic Mr. Card created for this story made it impossible for Danny to not be able to end any conflict, literally, with a thought. Sure, he frets about not being able to do that, but in reality he is able to and finds a way to.

The best part of this story, I think, was not the story of Danny at all. It was the story of Wad back on the home world of the mages. But Wad’s story, while integral and intriguing, was a side story that was rushed through. The ending to Wad’s tale in this book was much more climatic than Danny’s and left me scratching my head as to why I felt cheated in being told so much about this Danny kid while Wad’s side of the story seemed like an afterthought.

Orson Scott Card promises the next book in this series and perhaps it will be better. But I don’t know that I will be reading it unless I am really convinced that the dearth of action which made The Lost Gate barely a tolerable read is corrected.

I give The Lost Gate an average rating of three out of five stars.

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