Orson Scott Card owes much of his name recognition and success to his epic science fiction series set in the Enderverse. While the struggles of Ender Wiggin are his bread and butter, he certainly does not shy away from other categories of work. With the Mither Mages trilogy, Card jumps with both feet into the fantasy world of magic gates, fallen gods and epic struggles.
THE GATE THIEF, volume two of the trilogy, begins almost immediately where its predecessor, THE LOST GATE, began. High school student Danny North, who previously discovered his dormant powers as a gate mage, is still locked in a struggle against the Families. Descendants of fallen gods, the Families seek to open one of the great gates and thus reestablish their dwindling powers. With Loki having been defeated by Danny, chances for success have risen. But they also seek to control Danny, and if they can't control him, then death is the only solution.
"The magic system and the uses of myth and history throughout really bring a sense of weight to the story, adding a dynamic spark that roots the reader in the moment. The pages will turn at a pretty substantial pace until the abrupt cliffhanger ending."
Danny recognizes his own failures and realizes that he does not have control of the power he stole from Loki. As the story unwinds, it seems that Loki, who once locked all the gates, did so for a very specific and protective reason. Loki wants to help Danny maintain the gates, protecting the human world and the old world of Westil from the mages Bel and Ishtoreth. Even with the fate of worlds in the balance, Danny must also protect himself from his human companions. Once they discover the extent of his true powers, everyone wants a piece, and they manipulate him in attempts to secure their own powers.
THE GATE THIEF contains all of the action of the first volume of the series, but here the plot grows dark, bringing a harsh edge to the story as things devolve. Danny has grown from the first book, and even though he is prone to missteps, the one real thing he has to draw from is his true desire to do good. The use of Loki would seem tiresome given that he's enjoying such fame on the big screen lately, but his historic/mythic aura is perfectly suited to the tale on the page. Yes, he wants to help Danny, but he is Loki after all, and the trickster has his own agenda to carry out.
The magic system and the uses of myth and history throughout really bring a sense of weight to the story, adding a dynamic spark that roots the reader in the moment. The pages will turn at a pretty substantial pace until the abrupt cliffhanger ending. Perhaps too abrupt. THE GATE THIEF certainly does set up for the forthcoming third volume, but perhaps a tad more of an ending might have softened the blow a bit. It doesn't serve to spoil the book, however, and with Card's abilities as a storyteller, readers are in good hands.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on March 29, 2013