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Book Review: Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card

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In Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card, adolescent Danny North flees the family compound fearing for his life. Odin, his father and leader of the Northern gods, can’t protect him. A treaty between the god clans requires the death of all gatemages, and they have discovered Danny is a gatemage.

Loki, Danny’s ancestor, stole all the gates in 620 A.D., trapping the god families on Earth. The gods need to return to Westhil, their homeland, to replenish their powers. Without the gates, the families have become weak and have lost their influence over Earth.

The clans prefer to maintain the status quo rather than let any family gain control of the gates. Therefore, all gatemages must die. To survive, Danny becomes a street urchin in D.C.

Eric, an experienced street kid, befriends Danny and teaches him the ropes. Only Danny finds he doesn’t need much teaching. As a gatemage, he has many powers, but lacks the knowledge to use them well. He learns by trial and error.

In addition to trying to understand his powers, Danny muddles through the same adolescent problems encountered by mortal boys, like sex. He meets Lana, a physically aggressive teenage girl, who forces him to face the question abruptly.

Street urchins participate in activities and life styles in order to survive that challenge traditional family norms. Danny must make moral and ethical decisions about stealing, shoplifting, and peer pressure. Danny’s life in the compound did not prepare him for life on the streets.

The gods aren’t very good parents, especially to the children of mixed encounters with mortals. Luckily for Danny, several other orphaned mages exist in the world. Some of these have made it to adulthood and teach the younger orphans to use their powers.

Danny is on a quest to understand his powers and stay alive. He gathers a band of cohorts to help him achieve his goals. At first he enlists the aid of mortals, but as the story develops, he builds a band of mages to guide and help him. His band consists of four adults, and one other adolescent. No names, because that would ruin the story.

While Danny comes of age, the antagonist, Wad finds himself embroiled in royal intrigue in the land of Westhil. Magic still exists, and ambitious people aspire to steal the throne. Card doesn’t spend a lot of time in Westhil during Lost Gate; this story belongs to Danny.

Lost Gate is the first book in the Mither Mages series. Card developed the story concept, the magic system, and the characters over a thirty-year period. His character Wad and Westhil developed first and portions of the Mither magic system show up in the Alvin Marker series, especially Red Prophet. It wasn’t until recently that Card decided to write the story as an urban fantasy by putting the North family in contemporary time.

Card’s decision works. Having Danny North deal with modern problems appeals to young readers and adults as well. He encounters real-life difficulties they have experienced such as peer-pressure and needing to be accepted.

The story bogs down in spots from Card’s need to explain the Mither Mage language and concepts, but it is the first book in a series. He has to tell us these things in order for us to follow the story. He also has to do most of the explaining through the voice of an adolescent.

Orson Scott Card is a prolific writer with several series, and he has won many awards. His Ender’s Game is an international best seller, and a Hugo award recipient. Card has also received a Nebula award for Speaker for the Dead. With Lost Gate, Card continues his tradition of writing achievement. Its entertainment value makes it a good read for adults and young adults.

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About Bruce G. Smith

I'm a part time writer with a few articles published here and there. In addition to writing, I'm into nature and architectural photography.