And Then I Read: THE LOST GATE

© Orson Scott Card.

I’ve been a fan of Card’s writing for many years, and I tend to prefer his fantasy to his science fiction, so I was delighted to find this book recently, the beginning of a new fantasy series, apparently (assuming this one does well).

The protagonist, Danny North, has grown up in a household of godlike men and women with various kinds of magical talents, though he himself seems to have none, and is therefore generally ignored by the adults and tormented by the other children in the family compound in a remote rural area. Imagine Danny’s surprise when he suddenly discovers he has the power to create “gates,” openings through space from one place to another, making him one of the most powerful kinds of mages. Trouble is, gate mages are hated by all the other mages, not only in his own family, but in the others around the world they compete with for power and wealth. It’s partly a jealousy thing, partly the fact that centuries ago a powerful gate mage, Loki, cut them all off from their true homeworld of Westil, trapping them on Earth where their powers are gradually fading.

As soon as Danny realizes what his true nature is, he knows he has to get far away from all the other mages, and he goes on the run, ending up in Washington, D.C., where he’s taken under the wing of Eric, a young con artist. When Eric finds out about Danny’s powers, he sees it as a foolproof way to make a lot of money in burglary. That doesn’t go so well for either of them.

Meanwhile, on the world of Westil, where things are still very medieval, a young man who has been trapped inside a tree for centuries is suddenly freed, and Wad, as he is called, begins a new life inside a royal castle, where his own secret abilities as a gate mage lead him into close associations with the royals. All kinds of plots, spying and betrayals are going on in this kingdom, and Wad ends up in the middle of it, as well as in the Queen’s bedroom.

Back on Earth, Danny gradually finds friends who try to help him learn about and develop his powers, but it’s tough going since all such knowledge has long been hidden away or forgotten. Danny’s attempt to make a new life for himself in a normal High School only leads to more complications, and eventually the lives of the two gate mages become entwined in a way that will prove tragic for one of them.

This is a great read, though a few times I did wonder whether it was going places I wanted to go, especially when young Danny becomes a burglar. Never fear, it all plays out effectively, and Card has set up a system of magic that has nearly endless possibilities for good stories, I think. Highly recommended.

2 thoughts on “And Then I Read: THE LOST GATE

  1. Kurt Busiek

    There are two other stories so far set in the same fantasy world as THE LOST GATE. One is the novella STONEFATHER, which was published as a slim, standalone book by Subterranean Press, and it’s just terrific — I actually wished THE LOST GATE was more like STONEFATHER when I read it. It also appeared in the anthology WIZARDS, edited by Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann. You’d like it a lot, I expect.

    There’s also an even earlier short story, “Sandmagic,” which I thought was ind of slight, but I mention it for completeness’ sake.

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