Wendy's Reviews > Lichgates

Lichgates by S.M. Boyce
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's review
Feb 18, 2012

really liked it
Read from February 18 to 25, 2012

This book is an enchanting high fantasy that draws on the essence of both The Neverending Story and Alice in Wonderland, plot devices from Stargate SG-1 and Narnia, and a quest like that of Luke Skywalker's. One of my first thoughts while reading it was if I were a filmmaker recreating this story, I would treat it in a matter similar to Watership Down...showing the human dimension in live action, and Ourea's scenes animated (Final Fantasy style at that). Simply, it would be very hard to render a world as beautiful as the one Ms. Boyce has created on Earth. Soaring towered cities...one of them UNDERWATER. Even the elements that are brutal are beautiful.

The author balances the wonder out by injecting a healthy dose of humanity at its worst. None of the people trust each other, as main character Kara discovers early on. In what I consider the strongest scene of the book, a slender queen on an afternoon stroll finds herself face to face her people's worst enemy...a man easily four-times her size and she battles him with wits and steel. Lorraine is beautiful, wise, capable of unconditional love and forgiveness, but beneath her skin, she is ruthless as her opponent. Every ruler of Ourea is, because every throne requires it.

But, Lichgates is not without its problems. The ratio of narration to dialog (with far more narrative) is unusual in a Young Adult novel. I also found the chapters to be unbalanced. The main character's struggle with guilt and death is appropriate, and expertly handled by the author, as are the philosophical questions regarding free will and genocide. But as the story requires introducing the reader to settings, races, creatures, magic, all while following the main character on a quest that runs parallel to this, plus rounding out an number of characters, the author was almost required to "tell" much of the story opposed to "show" to get it all in a YA length story. I felt a bit let down by how quickly events and discoveries came. Also, in the prose, there are brilliant passages that ignite all of the senses, followed by sections I refrained from skimming. They didn't hold my interest, but because the author drops very subtle hints, I was concerned that I'd miss something important.

At the end, I was very happy to have picked up this book and delighted with the story when I finished it. My quibbles with the prose could be fixed in a another round of editing, but I feel it would be a shame for another reader to pass the story by because I feel that way. I am looking forward to the next book in The Grimoire story.
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