Review of The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card

I has been quite a while now since I have read a novel by Orson Scott Card.  I went through a phase after reading Enders Game where I devoured anything written by Card.  I absolutely loved the Alvin Maker tales and one of my all time favourite books is Treason, a stand alone novel which is all too rare in the SF genre.

I read a blurb about The Lost Gate and was quite excited about it.  It looked to be something new and different, another thing quite rare in the SF genre.  It is about a young boy, Danny North, who has grown up knowing that magic existed.  His whole family, living in a compound like some freak religious cult, have magic.  Whether it be his Uncle Zog, who can control animals, to his father who was a Rockbrother, someone who can control metal.  Danny himself has no magic.  He is a ‘drekka’, looked down upon by his talented family, constantly harassed by his numerous cousins.

To escape the torment Danny runs a lot.  He often runs so fast he doesn’t know how he got there.  Then one morning, while babysitting the girls and trying to make them mind, he does something impossible.  He gates.  Gatemages have been hunted for centuries.  They are the reason that all the magical families have declined to their current pathetic state.  Those families, who were once gods on earth, used to use the gates to go to another world.  Upon returning from that world their powers would increase exponentially and they were as gods to the poor humans.

Loki, a Gatemage, closed all the great gates, preventing them from increasing their powers.  The families’ powers declined over the centuries and the continual warfare between them meant that any Gatemage born to the families was killed so that no family would have the advantage over the other.

Once Danny realises his power he knows he must make his own way in the world and find out how to use a power that nobody has had in hundreds of years.  He leaves all he has known to go out and learn what he can about his powers and about himself.

This is a classic coming of age story, although I thought the main character, Danny, was a bit of a smart ass and difficult to relate to.  I think more could have been done with the characters in this, although I did find it compelling reading.  Danny’s adventures, while fairly tame, follow a progression of learning and he steadily becomes more of a real person towards the end of the novel.  This is obviously the first in a long series, as nothing much really happens in this one.  The other story, taking place on another world, seems to have a little more promise, with another gatemage who turns out to have a lot of secrets.

It is obvious these two characters will become either allies or enemies in the next novel, as there is really no-one in either world who can stand against them.

While I quite enjoyed reading this novel, it hardly compares with the emotionally wrenching Enders Game, which I feel to be one of the classics of the last couple of decades.  It was pleasant but I think the next novel needs to step it up a notch in the action department otherwise readers will lose interest.  I am looking forward to the next novel but not enough to count the days, if you know what I mean?