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Off the Shelves: Lost Gate has fun elements, but is less than epic

‘The Lost Gate'

Written by: Orson Scott Card

Price: $24.99

Rating: Three out of five bookmarks



"The Lost Gate" by science-fiction master Orson Scott Card is a fairly standard fantasy fable. Thirteen-year-old Danny North discovers he has an unusual magical power that has been outlawed by the mage clans for centuries.

The story begins by explaining all mythological and fairy-tale creatures were created by wizard factions, including the North clan. Originally from a distant land called Westil, all mages have been exiled to live in our world. Danny for most of his life has been called a drekka, or a clan member who has no magic abilities, and has been ridiculed by his family. One day, however, he realizes he has a secret power: he can manipulate space and time to teleport himself to any place he desires - that is, he can create "gates."

But gatemages have been hunted down every time one is discovered, since it was a gatemage that trapped the clans in the human realm by closing off the Great Gate between Westil and our world.

To keep from being found out by his family, Danny escapes to hide among normal humans, and tries to learn how to control his magic. If he is caught by any of the clans, he could be forced to reopen the Great Gate, which would allow the mages to return to godhood and have the power to control both worlds.

This story intertwines with a secondary story about a gatemage named Wad, set in the fantasy kingdom of Iceway. Briefly, Wad was imprisoned in a tree for 1,400 years, and once he was released, was taken in and cared for by the head cook of King Prayard's castle.

Wad uses his magic to save Queen Bexoi from being assassinated, as he is in love with her. His love leads him to perform some very ignoble actions, affecting the fates of everyone he cares for. It is only at the very end of his tale we find out what Wad has to do with Danny's plotline, and it is a rather anticlimactic outcome.

I don't know if it's the "less is more" line of thought, but I found myself much more intrigued by Wad's story than Danny's. The main plot with Danny did not seem all that original or epic, nor did it seem to follow logic a good deal of the time. Granted, Danny is only 13, so he isn't always going to make the wisest decisions. But rather than laying low and not using his powers to draw attention to himself, he is constantly making gates and leaving them all over the place for any skilled mage to find.

Eventually he does figure out how to control his gates better, but then he wants to make a Great Gate that would lead him and his newfound friends back to the magical homeland. Why? Wasn't this the very thing they are trying to prevent from happening? Sadly, Danny is not that intriguing of a character. He's a garden-variety teenage wizard like the many flooding the literary market these days, with no defining quirks or traits that set him apart.

Wad's story has more unexpected turns, relationship tensions and just more drama and action in general. I felt more sympathy for Wad and the hardships that befell him, probably because we can all identify with love and how it can cause us to do foolish acts.

I did not feel all that sympathetic for Danny, mainly because he doesn't really suffer any hardships. Every time a conflict presents itself on his journey, he just teleports away from it. The few times his teleporting doesn't permit him to escape the danger, it turns out whatever was after him wasn't really a threat at all, but usually a potential ally.

On top of that, what does he mainly use his gate powers to do? Help people? Perform noble deeds that change lives for the better? Nope, he uses them to shoplift and rob people's houses.

Orson Scott Card creates colorful imagery, presents fun ideas, and weaves together believable and humorous dialogue, which is why this book is disappointing to me.

I wish he had explored the concepts that he glossed over, rather than spending so much time on Danny's tale. I would have loved to learn more about why the mage clans project their "outselves" that form what we know as fairies, ghosts, were-creatures and elementals.

Overall, "The Lost Gate" is enjoyable, but only offers a glimpse into more interesting plots that remained hidden behind closed doors.

Alison Reeger Cook is a Gainesville resident whose Off the Shelves book review appears every other week in Sunday Life. Know of a good book to review? E-mail her to tell her about it.