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Nine Gates: Breaking the Wall    by Jane Lindskold order for
Nine Gates
by Jane Lindskold
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2009 (2009)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Jane Lindskold's Nine Gates is second (following Thirteen Orphans) in her excellent urban fantasy series, Breaking the Wall. A draconian 213 B.C. bookburning in ancient China made a parallel world, the Lands Born from Smoke and Sacrifice. A dynastic power grab there resulted in the exile of Twelve imperial advisors to Earth and the creation of Thirteen Orphans, each with powers (based on the mah-jong game) and characteristics of animals from the Chinese zodiac.

In Thirteen Orphans, Brenda Morris learned that her father Gaheris is one of the Twelve, the Rat, and that she is his heir. Members of the Twelve were attacked and their memories taken. Brenda's Auntie Pearl, the Tiger, gathered to their cause Dog Riprap, Rooster Des Lee, and Rabbit Nissa. They vanquished their attackers (Tiger Flying Claw, Snake Honey Dream and Dragon Righteous Drum) from the other world, and then allied with them to face an even greater danger.

Now, Nine Gates opens on the first skirmish of this new war. As the Orphans seek ways to establish the Nine Gates - and so take the fight to the Lands Born from Smoke and Sacrifice - Pearl, Dragon Shen and Cat Albert Yu (great-grandson of an emperor) attempt to persuade the heads of Earth's magical traditions that the recent conflicts have not broken their longstanding truce. Unfortunately some indigenous magic users will do anything it takes to acquire the Orphans' lore.

Though Honey Dream comes close to betraying the others, she finally reconciles her feelings for Flying Claw with her jealousy of Brenda. And Brenda reconciles her previous attraction to Flying Claw (when he had lost his memory and was their prisoner) with her discomfort with the violence that is his nature. They pass together between the jaws of the Guardian, White Tiger, and Brenda is aided by a mysterious sidhe woman from her maternal Irish ancestry in the desperate conflict that follows.

As this episode ends, that sidhe woman warns Brenda - 'You destroyed a trap. A singular trap, but the trapper is still free.' The Orphans have succeeded in establishing the Nine Gates, leaving the way open to the Lands Born from Smoke and Sacrifice and setting the scene nicely for what transpires next in this engaging and recommended series.

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