Archive for November 22nd, 2013

Kate Elliott – Spirit Gate

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Many fantasy authors use Earthly analogies in their worldbuilding so that the cultures they create are very familiar in the way they are set up and how names are used. One common type is the use of Arabic names in desert cultures which in their behavior resembleĀ  the Arabic cultures as well. Of course there are traits that are simply logical but one can put in a few twists to make them really different. So I am rather happy when I come across a fantasy story which contains original cultures or familiar cultures which have a sufficiently different twist to them. This is the case in the Crossroads Trilogy by Kate Elliott. In Spirit Gate (2007) she introduces several different cultures. The central one is truly original and worked out in most detail while the others are shown to a limited degree. There may be a desire to know more, but explaining it all is not required. The reader is interested, at least I was, and thus pays more attention when there is contact or information. In her previous series, Crown Of Stars, Elliott also showed good ability in creating different cultures.

The novel contains a low degree of magic. It is actually the central culture which possesses the largest amount of magical elements and even these are not very extensive. They serve as a special component. This component is however what drives the story and central to the plot.

The story itself is told from the viewpoint of several characters. Sometimes Elliott goes back a little in timeĀ  so that events are told from other perspectives as well. Elliott stays with the character for some considerable time so the reader gets to know them well as jumping from one to the other can lead to less attachment. She presents original characters which share the similar trait of having a strong core in times of need. On the outside they are very different. I don’t mind this similar traits as it is not an obvious one. I just mention it to give an indication of the characters that are being used.

Elliott takes her time to set up the story. It is after more than half of the novel that things get going and there are some fireworks. Elliott does provide an exciting finale although there still remains much of a mystery regarding the enemy, which is somewhat unusual. Elliott has an easy readable prose which keeps the reader quite engaged and sets a steady pace which is not too slow or too fast. She does make choice of which events she wants to show. Some she keeps short while other are more lengthy, although these also depend on the viewpoint that is chosen which often has a limited view of the events.

Spirit Gate is a well balanced novel with an interesting story, original cultures and characters. It takes a fresh approach in worldbuilding with light fantastical elements. In my reviews of Elliott’s previous series Crown Of Stars, my main criticism was the unstable quality level of the different novels. Spirit Gate belongs to the better quality ones and is much more solid in its writing, showing much improvement in Elliott’s writing ability, giving me much confidence on continuing on the next installment. This on is certainly recommended.