Thursday, July 8, 2010

Spirit Gate (Crossroads, Bk 1) by Kate Elliott

Posted by Simcha 6:58 AM, under | 6 comments

The last time that I had read a book by Kate Elliott was about eight years ago, when I had been fully engrossed in her Crown of Stars series. And although Elliott had made a great impression on me at the time, I haven't read anything else by her since then, mostly because I have not encountered any of her books here in Israel. But when I recently came across the author online I was reminded of how much I had enjoyed her books and so I decided to try to catch up with all of her books that I had missed out on over the years, starting with Spirit Gate.

For hundreds of years the Guardians have ruled the world of the Hundred, but these powerful gods no longer exert their will on the world. Only the reeves, who patrol on enormous eagles, still represent the Guardians' power. And the reeves are losing their authority; for there is a dark shadow across the land that not even the reeves can stop.

A group of fanatics has risen to devour villages, towns, and cities in their drive to annihilate all who oppose them. No one knows who leads them; they seem inhumanly cruel and powerful. Mai and Anji, riding with a company of dedicated warriors and a single reeve who may hold a key to stopping the deadly advance of the devouring horde, must try, or the world will be lost to the carnage. But a young woman sworn to the Goddess may prove more important than them all . . . if they are not too late.

Spirit Gate offers readers a panoramic view of a land which is slowly being overtaken by a dark and unknown force. The Guardians, who had once ruled the land, have been gone for so long that no one knows if they ever really existed, and the Reeves have lost the authority which had allowed them to bring order, in place of the Guardians. But the intervention of visitors from an outside land will have far reaching consequences that may help in the fight against the encroaching darkness.

Spirit Gate follows several different and very diverse characters, switching from one point of view to another throughout the book. Each character has their own journey that they have embarked upon but as the story progresses the individual stories begin to merge, eventually bringing all of the characters and their stories together.

Mai is the beautiful daughter of the most prestigious merchant family in Kartu Town, expected to make an advantageous marriage someday to a respectable boy. But when a Qin Captain spots Mai in the marketplace one day and expresses his interest in marrying her, Mai’s father has no choice but to give up his daughter to the man. Mai is both frightened and excited by this turn of events which may offer her the freedom she has always longed for, though it all depends on what kind of man it is that she has married.

Mai’s uncle Shai is the seventh son,
placing him at the very bottom of the family hierarchy. Seen as superfluous by the family, it is no surprise when Shai is the one chosen to accompany Mai when she leaves Kartu Town with her new husband. But Shai is also given the task of finding out what had happened to his older brother who has gone missing many years ago. Shai is elated to finally be free of the family who had always held him in contempt but he quickly discovers that finding a place to belong will be a lot more difficult then he had expected.

Joss is a Reeve, dedicated to maintaining justice and order in the land alongside the giant and intelligent eagle that he rides. But for twenty years he has been haunted by a single foolish and thoughtless act committed in his youth, and which ended in tragedy. The repercussions of that day have altered Joss's life but now he is determined to take a stand and finally fight back against the enemy that has been cutting the reeves down.

Kesh had been sold off as a slave by his family when he was just a child, and for the past twelve years has worked endlessly to pay off his debt. Now a recent stroke of good luck may have handed him just the treasure that he needs to finally buy his freedom, if he can protect it long enough to make the journey home. And even then his path to freedom is not yet clear.

I admit that when I started Spirit Gate I was a bit thrown off because I had expected this book to be somewhat similar to the others that I had read by Kate Elliott, which it is not. Though once I got used to the unexpected style of the narration, I was easily immersed in the story.

At first I was a bit distracted by the fact that the story doesn't focus on any one character for very long, but instead switches from one character's point of view to another. This prevented me from feeling particularly connected to any one of the characters, which normally would hinder my enjoyment of the book
, but once I got used to it I found that I really didn't mind. And as I got more involved in the story I discovered that I had gotten to know each of the characters enough that I did care about what happens to them. The style in which Spirit Gate was written actually reminds me quite a bit of Steven Erikson’s Gardens of the Moon, though it was a lot easier for me to get through. The epic feel to the story as well as the wide and detailed world building felt similar to Erikson’s novel, though the characters are not quite as intense. There is also the same kind of vague feeling to the story regarding who the villains are and what the specific danger is.

The pacing is slow but steady and the regular shifting of the point of view helped keep me interested, as did the different conflicts encountered by each of the characters.

On the back of Spirit Gate there is a quote from Sci Fi Weekly stating that this book is “a treasure for readers who enjoy the journey as much as, or more than, the destination,” which I think is very aptly put. Where the characters are headed and what their purpose is in this endangered land, largely remains unclear, but it’s the journey on which each of them have embarked that is the focus of this book. Kate Elliott has skillfully woven a wonderful story here with fantastic world building and interesting characters and I highly recommend it to all fantasy readers who enjoy a good epic tale.


Great review & thanks for the recommendation! I'll definitely get it!

It really s a great book! I actually first picked it up while traveling, and since then I've read the other two (Shadow Gate and Traitor's Gate). It gets a lot more exciting as you move forward through the series, as you become more invested in the characters, you meet new ones, and your questions slowly get answered. I echo your sentiments of making sure everyone read this book. I enjoyed it tremendously and it has been the best book series I've read in a long time.

One last things, it is a 7 book series, with split into 3 parts, the "Gate" books, followed by a stand alone novel, and finished with a third trilogy. I could go on about it, but I'll save that for another time. Unfortunately, still waiting on book 4 :(

Great review Simcha, and I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as I did!


Aleksandra: Great! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I think you would really like her Crown of Stars series also. It's different and more emotionally gripping though.

Bryan: I was wondering what it meant when I saw this is meant to be a trilogy that is part of a seven book series. So does the last book in the trilogy offer a satisfying conclusion?
Have you read any of Kate Elliott's other books? I've heard good things about the Jared series.

I love this book but have not had a chance to read the next two. Though now that you've reminded me of the series I'm going to have to check into it. Thanks for the review.

Ryan: Isn't it funny how easy it is to forget about books and authors that you have really enjoyed? I keep getting distracted by all of the new books I discover that I forget about some of the older books I once intended to read.

Oh Simcha, I am so in trouble with my books. This sounds like a great read. :) Thanks!

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