A few days ago, Aylwyn told me that she was reading a new book, Orson Scott Card’s The Lost Gate. I’ve loved just about anything and everything by Card since I first discovered Ender’s Game, and she said she was really enjoying the book so far, so I grabbed it on Kindle. It starts out with a kid living in an inbred hillbilly community in Virginia, except they’re a bit different from your average hillbillies: they’re gods. Or, the descendants of them, at least. Specifically, the bloodline of the Norse gods, whose power has grown weak ever since Loki played his last and greatest prank, forcibly closing all of the Gates that used to connect Earth with the magical world of Westil. Now there are no more gods, just mages, and pretty weak ones at that, hiding from the rest of the world, which has grown powerful without the aid of (or need for) magic. Now they’re just trying to survive in a world that has no need for them, and avoid drawing the wrath of other, more powerful families, such as the Greeks. (Yes, exactly what you’re imagining. They’ve grown wealthy and powerful in the modern world because they have a bunch of Poseidons using their power to help them earn fortunes in the shipping industry.)
Our protagonist, Danny, is a young boy (he starts out at 12 and is 16 at the end of the novel) who’s precocious and smarter than most of the adults around him. Anyone familiar with Card’s work will probably be nodding right about now. He certainly loves that archetype, and as the years go by he’s getting better at using it. Danny feels more human than Ender Wiggin, partially because he’s living in a more familiar setting (modern-day Earth) but mostly because he has more realistic faults and flaws. For all his power and all his intelligence, he’s still a kid who likes to show off, and it gets him in trouble at times. And it draws attention, attention that he can ill afford, because he was born with one of the two magics that are utterly forbidden.
Man-magic–the ability to “possess” a person and take control of them–is regarded as an abomination, something inherently evil that must be suppressed. But then there’s Gate magic, the ability to open gates (magical teleportation portals.) This isn’t a problem because it’s evil; it’s a problem because it’s powerful. Ever since Loki sealed the world off, no one has had any gates. And whoever gets one first, if they work out the ability to open a gate to Westil, will gain godlike power for his Family, so every Family has a treaty with all the others to never allow a gatemage to live, in order to prevent every other Family from ganging up on them in total war.
And Danny is a gatemage.
To say much more would be to give some important stuff away, so I won’t, except that I really enjoyed the book. It keeps you guessing, and it was fun to figure out one of the “puzzles” of the narrative really early on, and then realize at the end that that was only the first layer of it.
I was a little bit surprised at the end, though, when I realized that there are a ton of similarities between the mythos that Card has established here and my own Paul Twister stuff, centering around a magical world that was cut off from Earth long ago, and a powerful being who believes they have a very good reason for doing that and keeping it that way. (And various other details.) Apparently The Lost Gate came out in 2011, even though I’m just now finding out about it, so I just wanted to state for the record that I’m just now reading this, and any similarities that exist are purely coincidental, because I’ve already got the shape of my mythos all sketched out, for both of the worlds. (Interestingly, I saw another uncanny similarity in Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance, and I know that he’s been a long-time fan of Card’s work as well. We all write very different stories, but surprisingly similar details keep popping up independently…)
Anyway, I found The Lost Gate very well written, and I’ve already started on the second book, The Gate Thief, which picks up where the first one left off. Definitely worth reading, and I think if you enjoy the Tales of Paul Twister, you’d like this as well.