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The Lost Gate (Mithermages) by Orson Scott Card
Cover Artist: iStockphoto
Review by Meagen Voss
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765326577
Date: 04 January 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Book Trailer / Show Official Info /

Orson Scott Card likes to make his child characters grow up fast. And Danny North, the pre-teen hero of The Lost Gate, is no exception. It took more than three decades for Card to craft this story, and the result was a whimsical, yet serious, adventure that weaves together both the dangers of the adult world and the folly of youth.

Like many stories about pre-teens, the story begins with Danny wishing he was anywhere but home. Born to a family of exiled mages, Danny dreams of the world outside of their hidden West Virginia compound. In his familyís eyes, Danny is a living disappointment, a powerless drekka who canít even use elementary magic. Then Danny accidently discovers that he is a gatemage, the first in a thousand years. You think his family would have been thrilled, but due to the antics of the last gatemage, all gatemages have to be sentenced to death to preserve an uneasy truce between his clan and other magic clans. Danny, knowing that his family would kill him, flees the compound and takes his chances with the humans. With no one to guide him, Danny must figure out his powers on his own while evading the other clans and the ominous Gate Thief, who threatens to take away Dannyís powers for real.

Following Danny from the forests of West Virginia to the streets of Washington D.C., Card shows us that Danny is smart, yet he has a haphazard, carefree attitude that can produce disastrous, though sometimes hilarious, outcomes. This aspect of Dannyís character makes him believable, yet there is also something not quite right about him. Before Danny left the compound, he had this maturity driven by his desire to survive in a world where he was treated unfairly. But after he escaped, he became an incorrigible prankster. Card makes it clear that gatemages are known for being tricksters, yet this transformation was relatively sudden and led to some awkward plot elements, such as the drawn out part about Dannyís temporary occupation as a petty criminal. Maybe Danny went wild because he was free to do what he wanted for the first time in his life, but mostly it felt like he was relearning lessons he already knew.

Aside from some confusion with Dannyís characterization, Card created a gripping story with a rich world, quirky characters and a unique vocabulary that will almost certainly surface at the next major fantasy convention. The sword and sorcery crowd who enjoy epic journeys through other worlds and battle campaigns should skip this one, but readers who enjoyed Harry Potter and the Artemis Fowl series would certainly enjoy this book.

Parents be warned, Card doesnít hold back when it comes to blood or sex, so you might want to read the book first. But keep in mind that the joy of Cardís work is seeing his young characters take on adult situations and win.

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