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Shadow Gate: Book Two of Crossroads by Kate Elliott
Cover Artist: Michael Kaluta
Review by Harriet Klausner
Tor Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765310569
Date: 15 April 2008 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

In the realm of the Hundred, the eagle rider Marit the reeve heroically died three years ago at a time when the land turned hostile due to the assault of a rogue Guardian. Chaos overthrew order partially because the Hundred mortals no longer revered the Nine Guardians, who for whatever reason seemed to stop watching over the people even with their agents the reeves dispensing justice. A few heroes like Marit gave up their lives to save the mortals from the horde.

When Marit awakes lying naked on a Guardian altar she is confused: She knows she was murdered, since the peacekeeping reeves understand death blows. And sadly, she realizes her soulmate eagle is dead. Marit also begins to comprehend other changes to her nature even as she ponders what happened to her lover, reeve marshal Joss, and thinks about the absent, ruling nine Guardians.

As she fully understands what she has become, she learns that several of her new peers, the Guardians, are no longer providing justice through the reeves; instead they are assaulting the Hundred in various bellicose ways. She has no idea how to stop the wars that have devastated people and radically changed the social order. She may be a Guardian now, but like Joss and others she wonders how to reconcile the struggle between the survival needs of the people with justice that seems to no longer be relevant.

The second Crossroads epic fantasy is a fabulous thriller that grips readers from the onset when a bewildered Marit wakes up on the altar. The story line is fast-paced, though multiple subplots (not described above) round out the deep look into a cosmos that has turned upside down. Newcomers will be better off starting with the first tale (see Spirit Gate) to have a better comprehension of the Machiavellian maneuvers.

The plot is character-driven, mostly by Marit who struggles with what war has done to her homeland in the three years she was gone and even more with what should she do as one of the Nine to stop the destruction caused by her new peers. Others like Joss come across as fully developed as they struggle with monumental issues of how to save the Hundred while creating a brand of justice different from the pre-war days. Meanwhile readers also follow the sacrifice and exploits of several of the Hundred mortals who seek ways for themselves or loved ones to endure the unbearable genocide.

Shadow Gate can get a bit confusing, especially for those who have not read a Kate Elliot saga before, since multiple, complex story lines are her trademark. But she's also known for her ability to bring everything back to the center. Not all is tied up as threads dangle for book three, and the ending feels abrupt (a typical consequence of the genre's multiple volumes). Still, this is an exhilarating second story that sub-genre fans will relish.

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