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The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card

The Lost Gate (edition 2011)

by Orson Scott Card

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8516110,545 (3.68)58
Title:The Lost Gate
Authors:Orson Scott Card
Info:Tor Books (2011), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fantasy, read in 2013, LT Haiku

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The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card

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Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
Good, but not wonderful. ( )
  Mirandalg14 | Aug 18, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have never been so excited to have a book show up on my doorstep as I was with this book. I opened the package, read the first few words, and was so hooked that it was next to impossible to put it down. I had to absolutely force myself to not read it in a single night, to make it last, because I knew I wasn't going to get another book like this for a very, very long time.

Leading the book is a benevolent trickster, one who grew up as a misfit with no power, and finds out accidently that he is actually one of the most powerful (and most feared) kinds of mages - a gatemage. When he was almost discovered, he ran away from home with absolutely no idea of how the world actually works, and somehow, one way or another, ends up alright, despite having to worry about the threat of the Gate Thief.

Card gently and skillfully explores the pain and uncertainty of adolescence, and that of being rejected by those you love, and forming your own way out of the ashes out of that rejection. He spends some time on the need for inclusion, to fit in, and it's a big part of the lead character's psyche to really find out how other people live, despite being raised to disdain regular peoples' lives. I think Card's understanding of the psychology of his characters really made the book more real to me.

Even as the The Lost Gate left me with unanswered questions and curiosity about the future, it did it gently. I'm not going to be ravenous for the next book like I am for the next book in GRRM's series, but quite content to wait -- and if there isn't one, I'll live. I think that's actually a marker of Card's strength as a writer -- he could have left the book on some absolutely painful cliffhangers quite easily.

Reading this book absolutely reminded me of reading Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman, and this book is absolutely one of Card's best. Very much worth a read, and thank you for the opportunity to read it early. ( )
  lyrrael | May 19, 2014 |
Card's style is distinctive. Sometimes I'm not too crazy about his characters. Unfortunately, the main character of this book, Danny, was not one of my favorites. The novel had two storylines going; the secondary storyline was, by far, the more interesting and more believable, even though it was more "fantastical." I'd have preferred much more about the "other" world and less about the rather unlikeable Danny. ( )
  marti.booker | Dec 2, 2013 |
Sometimes I can look past an artist (whether they are a singer, writer, screenwriter, producer, etc) and their personal opinions. In this case I can't.
  kerrikins | Sep 25, 2013 |
Find this review at Walker of Worlds, here: http://www.walkerofworlds.com/2011/03/review-lost-gate-by-orson-scott-card.html

Danny is an almost orphaned child raised in a family of magical adepts, while he himself lacks the skills and talents that set his family apart from humanity. Instead, he focuses on his academic studies, absorbing history, languages, and learning at a voracious rate. One day, almost by accident, that all changes when he realizes he unexpectedly inherits magical powers long thought to be lost from the world. This discovery is a death sentence in his family, and he does the only logical thing—he runs, narrowly escaping certain death.

On his journey, he explores his new and strange magical powers, as well as the non-magical world he has been hidden from his whole life. He is a mage, descendent of the gods and goddesses man worshiped in ancient times, but he travels among normal people, finding his way among the beggars and thieves in the underworld of Washington, D.C.

Even as he does, he is hiding from his family, the descendents of gods. You see, the ancient pantheons in the Greek, Nordic, Roman, or Hindu world are really visitors to Earth, mages whose powers were amplified by their journey through magical gates between their world and Earth. Those gates were lost many centuries ago, stranding them here and weakening their powers. Now, Danny is about to find himself at the center of an ancient struggle to get back to their world, renew their powers, and regain control of the Earth as gods and goddesses. His very existence will reignite a power struggle between the modern descendents of the pantheons for the control of the gates, and he will be at the center of it.

While not an entirely original story, it is clever and creative. A young boy finds out he is not actually as normal as he thought, but is really a being of unique magical powers (like Harry Potter), the son of gods (like Percy Jackson), and those powers make him among the most powerful people in the world. Orson Scott Card brings his own flavor to the story, but it is a story that has been done better before.

Even so, The Lost Gate is full of interesting ideas. Some of the best sections are during jumps from Danny’s perspective on Earth to that of another mage on the gods own world. While most of Danny’s story is focused on his learning about his magic, by interweaving the alternate perspective, we catch glimpses of the greater conflict, one that began thousands of years before Danny’s birth. However, the story feels rushed, and in the rush, Card’s best ideas falter. Rather than flesh out the characters and plot, the story leaps from point to point, never really building on the ideas.

In short, Card’s newest novel is too many good ideas and not enough time. The result is an average story by an above average author. Card’s intermingling of the two perspectives and their genre blending works well, setting the stage for a war between worlds. Even as the novel closes, we have only seen glimpses of the real fight, and we know that before the tale is through (this is only the first in the series), Danny will be at the center of that conflict.

Even with those glimpses, I often felt disappointed by the story-telling itself. The plot felt jumpy and lacked tension. Even on the run for his life, Danny feels more like he is meandering than fleeing. Card lets his character out of any kind of scrape that might actually threaten him, with little or no cost. At the end of the day, we all want the hero to win, but we want the win to feel like a victory, not a foregone conclusion.

Another concern I had with The Lost Gate was Card’s heavy use of info dumps. With the creation of any system of magic, an author has to explain things and fill in the reader on how things work. But Card’s info dumps were constant, going so far as to feel more like a Wikipedia entry than a piece of the story. Rather than supporting the story, the story sometimes seemed to play second fiddle to the info dumps or sudden character introductions. To be sure, the world and ideas are very interesting and very creative, but the alacrity with which Card makes stuff up to fit the situation, rather than providing all the rules upfront, makes the internal logic of the story feel contrived and inconsistent. As a result, the story hurts, even while the ideas flourish.

If that was my only complaint, the story might still have been an enjoyable experience. But problems arose when Card lets his characters talk to each other. I know, right? The audacity. But rather than move the story forward, though, the characters’ dialogue seems to get in the way. They argue and complain, bicker and whine...constantly. In one “memorable” scene, the characters seem to flip-flop between decisions they had already agreed upon just so that the dialogue can continue (and by “continue” I mean “argue”) for another page. It makes them look inconsistent and unlikeable, not to mention irritating, and it rarely does anything to affect what we can already see is going to happen next in the plot. As a result, I could not decide whether I thought a character was unlikable, or had just been poorly scripted. In the end, I rarely felt any connection with the characters, including the protagonist, Danny.

While The Lost Gate is full of ideas and potential, for me it fell flat. I found myself frustrated that I was too far into the book to put it down, but not far enough to be done.

Last comment: at the end of the novel, Card inserts an Afterword where he explains the roots of his inspiration for The Lost Gate. After thirty years, he figured out how to work the ideas together. My concern is that while it may have had its genesis 30 years ago, the book feels like it was rushed to be finished in the last month before it went to print. While Card is not G.R.R. Martin (and nobody wants to wait as long as we already do for Martin’s sequels), I do wish he would take a page out of George’s book. Slow down to redraft, rewrite, and edit. With great ideas, it’s worth the time, and I think it would make all the difference.

( )
1 vote publiusdb | Aug 22, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Card, Orson Scottprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blumen, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Phillip and Erin Absher
After all we've shared over the years,
From California to Kansas,
From Provence to Myrtle Beach,
With all the magics along the way:
This book is for you.
First words
Danny North grew up surrounded by fairies, ghosts, talking animals, living stones, walking trees, and gods who called up wind and brought down rain, made fire from air and drew iron out of the depth of the earth as easily as ordinary people might draw up water from a well.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
In the ancient world, pantheons of gods ruled over every society of man, until the trickster, Loki, sealed off the source of their power. Ever since they have been forced to live with greatly diminished power amongst the humans they used to rule.

Danny North has discovered that he has the powers of a gate mage, making him one of the most powerful members of his family of former gods. Unfortunately this earns him a death sentence. Ever since their fall, the former gods have made a pact that anyone who shows the same power as Loki, the power of a gate mage, must be killed immediately lest one pantheon be the only one to return to its former greatness. Danny must flee from his family and fend for himself in the society of normal humans while he learns to use his power and recover the greatness for all mages that Loki stole so long ago.

Meanwhile in the world of Westil, the home world of the gods, a boy has been released from his ancient imprisonment inside a tree. He has no recollection of who he is or how he became imprisoned. All he knows is that he too has the great powers of a gate mage and that he has forgotten something very important.
Haiku summary
Ye gods! Teenager

Learns about himself and his

Dangerous powers.


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Danny grew up in a family compound in Virginia, believing that he alone of his family had no magical power. But he was wrong. Kidnapped from his high school by a rival family, he learns that he has the power to reopen the gates between Earth and the world of Westil.… (more)

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