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The Lost Gate: The Mither Mages #1    by Orson Scott Card order for
Lost Gate
by Orson Scott Card
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2011 (2011)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Danny North grows up in a family of once-gods (think Thor, Odin, Loki), who now live like hillbillies in the mountains of west Virginia. Though North family members still have magic, it's much reduced since Loki closed the Great Gates that allowed them to travel between Westil and Mittlegard, the passage back and forth magnifying their magic. All the North cousins are homeschooled and taught early to send their outselves to explore. But though Danny is extremely smart, he has no outself and fears that he's a drekka, without magic. The other kids taunt him, play tricks on him, and freeze him out.

What Danny does do is rove the woods by himself and run and run for miles, even managing to secretly escape the family compound and watch the drowthers, humans without affinities or powers. Then, after getting into trouble with his elders, Danny discovers that he does have a power, a forbidden one that is an automatic sentence of death. He can make gates. To maintain their balance of power, all the Families have agreed to kill any gatemage who is born. Loki's closure of the Great Gates turned gods into mere mages who could be killed if drowthers tried hard enough. If a gatemage can create a new Great Gate, their Family would become all powerful. Discovered, Danny is forced to flee.

In addition to following Danny's adventures as he learns to use his powers, with the help of Orphans (mages outside the Families who take him in, and who want the Great Gates open to everyone), readers meet a man who emerges from a tree in Iceway, a realm in Westil. He ends up in the King's castle of Nassassa, where he's helped (and named Wad) by the night cook, Hull. She recognizes Wad as a gatemage and warns him of the Gate Thief who steals the powers of anyone who tries to open a Great Gate. Wad watches Queen Bexoi (neglected by her husband for political reasons) and falls in love. After he saves her life, she has his son, pretending it is the King's. But Bexoi is an ambitious woman.

These two stories eventually come together when Danny discovers how to make a Great Gate. Of course, when he makes the attempt, helped by a new ally, Hermia, the Gate Thief finds him. But why did the Gate Thief become the enemy of all gatemagery? We'll have to wait for the next Mither Mages episode to find out. In the meantime, Danny will continue to establish 'roots in the drowther world. Because being a god was too seductive and too dangerous.'

As always, Orson Scott Card gives us a remarkable read. Danny's ongoing banter with others reminded me of Card's recent YA story, Pathfinder, while the gatemagery was in some ways reminiscent of Steven Gould's Jumper. These mild resemblances aside, The Lost Gate stands as a brilliant start to a new series and I'm anxious to read what follows (soon I hope!)

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