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Shadow Gate: Book Two of Crossroads    by Kate Elliott order for
Shadow Gate
by Kate Elliott
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2008 (2008)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Shadow Gate follows Spirit Gate as the second of a planned seven in Kate Elliott's outstanding Crossroads series. It's set in the Hundred, where just laws were once overseen by godlike Guardians, assisted by Reeves, bonded with giant eagles. Now the Guardians have disappeared, the Hundred is devolving into anarchy, and the Reeves are steadily losing their battle against a hidden enemy.

The first episode began with the tragic death of Reeve Marit, for which her lover Joss blamed himself. In another plot strand far to the south, Qin Captain Anji married Mai, daughter of the proud Mei trading clan. Anji's dangerous heritage (as half brother to an Emperor) forced them to flee to the Hundred. Mai's young uncle Shai (who sees ghosts and seeks his missing brother Hari) accompanied her when they journeyed north, as did an abused Mei family slave, named Cornflower for her pallor and golden hair - she died en route. Another strand involved the reunion of a brother and sister - embittered merchant Keshad and the very dangerous Zubaidit (Bai), who were both enslaved after their parents' deaths.

Shadow Gate opens on Awakenings. Marit comes to awareness of a strange form of existence. She discovers that years have passed and she is some sort of spirit, needing no sustenance except for periodic visits to Guardian's altars. Only the god-touched can see her and a winged mare tags along after her. In a Guardian labyrinth, she's contacted by the ill-reputed Lord Radas of Iliyat, the very man who ordered her death and killed her eagle. She flees his men's pursuit, and communicates with a fellow ghost named Hari. He tells her of nine Guardians at war - two who rule, three (including Hari) who submit, and four (including Marit and the mysterious envoy) sought by the others. After her own awakening, another of the four, Cornflower, regains her memories of being Kirya Moroshya of the jaran and seeks justice.

Amongst the living, Joss is now Marshall of Argent Hall. A pregnant Mai, Anji, and their people settle in the Barrens where they have been granted land in return for defending Olossi against Lord Radas' armies, and where the soldiers seek local wives. Shai and Zubaidit are sent into the north as scouts to garner intelligence of the enemy, while Kesh heads south to spy in the Sirniakan Empire. Captured, Shai shelters and then rescues children taken by Radas' army as slaves. Kirya, Marit, and the envoy ally against the corrupt Guardians. The Qin settlement comes under attack, and it's learned that Anji's half brother, the Emperor, is dead - which raises all kinds of questions to make readers eagerly anticipate the next episode in this remarkable epic fantasy series.

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