Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott

August 20, 2011

Spirit Gate is the first in Kate Elliott's Crossroads trilogy.  I have to admit I struggled to finish reading this one.  To give the book its due, I read it just after George R R Martin's A Dance With Dragons and any book would have suffered in comparison.  (That reminds me; I probably should do a review of ADwD, too)

As the first book in a trilogy, I had expected a lot of introductory backstory.  However, I felt this book suffered from too much setup not enough payoff.  For the first 80%* the main protagonists seem to be wandering around aimlessly.  The last 20% of the book where all the storylines converge was fun, exciting and could have been kicked off earlier in the book. 

All in all, though, I will likely read the next book in the trilogy to find out what happens to the characters.

What I liked:

The worldbuilding: The world created by Ms Elliott is extremely rich and detailed.  We are introduced to multiple cultures with varied religions, customs and mores and they all feel unique, real and believable.  Some interesting premises, the Guardians for example, are introduced, and I look forward to reading more about them in later books.

Interesting themes: Some interesting themes are explored in this book, such as the value of communication and importance taking a wider view of the situation.  To quote Jack from Lost "live together, or die alone."

Intriguing characters: Some of the characters are very interesting and well-written and I look forward to spending more time with them.  Reeve Joss in particular comes across as being very human, with strengths and weaknesses.

What I didn't like:

The disappearing protagonist: One of the first characters we meet in the book is Reeve Marit, and she is introduced in a way as to make us believe she will be one of the protagonists of the novel.  She seems fun, dynamic and interesting to know, and a couple of chapters into the book, she is killed.  Although we meet her again at the end, this did make me feel a little cheated.

One-dimensional characters: Some, not all, of the characters we meet feel very one-dimensional even though we're in their viewpoints.  Villains  have no redeeming qualities and the good guys have no flaws.  

The Pacing: For too much of the book the protagonists are wandering around aimlessly.  I believe the book would have benefitted from their having had a more clearly defined goal much earlier in the book and then have them work towards that at the climax of the book.
Currently reading: The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Currently watching: Battlestar Galactica: Season 3

*NB I read on a Kindle, so go by percentages or locations rather than page numbers.

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