Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card

The Lost Gate
Over the years, I've come to expect certain things when I open up a new novel by Orson Scott Card. The main thing is that I better just block out the time to read the book straight through to the finish. It's a bad idea to start a new Card novel at bedtime, because I can count on getting no sleep till it's done. Unfortunately, this latest book wasn't up to those standards, I'm afraid.

The main story line in The Lost Gate is about Danny North, a twelve year old child in a family of mages who live on a compound in Virginia. They are the descendents of powerful magic users who once were considered to be gods, in this case the Norse ones, like Loki and Thor. Ever since the trickster, Loki, locked up the gate between MiddleGard and Westilia, their powers have waned, and they live concealed from ordinary humans, or drowthers.

Danny, alone amongst his cousins, doesn't have any talent for magic, and is held in contempt by most of his clan. It turns out after a bit that he's actually a gatemage, who has the potential to restore the gates that Loki stole. The other magic families on the planet are part of an agreement that since gatemages are too powerful, they will be put to death as soon as they are discovered, and when the Greeks come by for an inspection, Danny is caught using small gates to snoop on the adults, and flees for his life.

Like Oliver Twist or Pinocchio, he meets up with some unsavory companions when he is shoplifting some clothes at a WalMart, and travels to Washington DC to begin a life of crime - just like congresscritters. The house where he eventually takes refuge turns out to be a place "baited" to bring in Orphans, the half breeds with magical talent that the Families do not claim. The house's owner, Stone, finds Danny a family of Orphans to live and train with, giving him the first truly loving environment he's ever really known.

There's a secondary story line that is taking place on the old home of the "gods", Westilia. Loss of the gates there has also caused the magic to dwindle. A boy/man whose body is trapped in a tree for centuries is released by some kindly strangers, though he suffers from a partial amnesia. He wanders into the midst of a political battle between mage kingdoms, and ends up playing a key role in restoring one of them to power again.

This novel is pretty much targeted at the young adult market. I just found it extremely derivative and not as captivating as Card's usual output. I never sympathized nor empathized with any of the characters, particularly, and what growth and development took place in their hearts and lives was far too facile. Pick it up at the library if you must, but I wouldn't pay hardcover prices for this one.

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