Dave's Reviews > The Lost Gate

The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card
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's review
Feb 11, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction, speculative-fiction
Read from February 11 to 22, 2011

“The Lost Gate” by Orson Scott Card is the first novel in what is likely to be a series of Mithermage novels. As Card explains in the Afterword, he considers this to be his best magic system, but a system itself does not make a good novel. Where this novel lacks, and where his series with Ender and Alvin succeeded, is in the formation of the story as well as good characters. The main character of this book, Danny, doesn’t measure up to those two predecessors, and the story itself seems to have many flaws and contradictions.

The story starts with Danny North at the age of thirteen. Danny is part of the North (i.e. Norse) family of magicians, who take on titles like Thor and Odin to represent their office, rather than those names coming from individuals. The North family is one of several families who come from Westil, a world that has been lost to the families on Earth ever since the trickster Loki (also of the North family) closed all the gates. Danny is isolated from most of the family, because he hasn’t displayed any magical ability, but it comes as no surprise that things will change with regard to that. The other key piece of knowledge is that the families have agreed that gatemages, such as Loki, are too dangerous for one family to have and the others lack, so they monitor each other to ensure that no family has such a huge advantage.

It isn’t surprising that the premise is a good one, full of possibilities, but the execution fails in many respects. Danny just isn’t a very good character. He repeatedly makes the same mistakes over and over. Supposedly he is in fear for his life, but that doesn’t appear to make him the least bit hesitant to use his powers to draw attention to himself over and over again. Of course, thirteen-year-olds do make a lot of mistakes, but it seems to never end with Danny, even when he is sixteen in the later chapters. Certainly Danny’s mistakes help to move the story forward, but there are other ways of doing that which wouldn’t have made Danny appear so hopeless in terms of learning from his mistakes.

From my perspective, I felt there was a huge problem with the specific premise of Danny and his powers. According to what we are told, the separation of Earth from Westil has resulted in magicians becoming weaker and weaker over time. In fact, we are told that they have become so weak that simply gating to Westil and coming back will result in their power increasing 100 fold or even more. While Danny’s parents are the two strongest magicians in the North family, and so that makes it more likely that Danny would be a fairly strong mage by the current standards on Earth, somehow the child they have produced is not only the most powerful mage on Earth, but far more powerful than Loki was on Westil. To be sure, Orson Scott Card made his primary characters like Ender and Alvin extremely special as well, but the premise behind why they were as smart and as powerful as they were made much more sense than what Card has attempted to do here.

To close on a bit more positive note, this is a fairly quick read, and there are some parts which are fun and interesting. I cannot give this a rating of higher than two stars though, because there are so many better books by Orson Scott Card to read, let alone other authors. Perhaps later novels in this series will have a better story to tell, with characters which aren’t as difficult for readers to identify with and root for. If you really like Card’s work, well then this is probably going to be a book you want to read, but outside of that I wouldn’t put it high on my list.
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