Book Critique: The Lost Gate (Mithermages #1)
For review of all books in this series: Go here
Stars: 4.5 / 5
Recommendation: Mythology, History and the everlasting theme of good vs evil between Super powers and Gods / Demi-Gods - all packaged into this clever little plot with teenagers again at the helm of saving the worlds.
The Lost Gate is the first book in the Mithermages trilogy written by Orson Scott Card and published in January of 2011. The plot revolves around Danny North, belonging to a Westil family living in western Virginia in a rambling family compound. The plot is set in modern world when gods and demi-gods live alongside humans.
I read this book a while ago, and also posted my review of the same on goodreads.com but I re-read this book as part of my goodreads reading challenge for 2018. Most of my impressions of my book from back then still remain the same but here is my revised review of the same.
Danny North lives in the family compound, North Family Compound, in western Virginia which is headed by his parents - Alf and Gerd - and where everyone has some kind of mage in them, except for Danny. He is tagged as Drekka - one without any special powers or magic. Not that all the Westil families living on Mittlegard - the Earth - have enough powers to rule the worlds again. However, Danny was really the odd one while his cousins and everyone around could create things that humans or drowthers - as called by the Westil families - called as fairies, golems, were-wolves and other fantasy things that they could name.
But Danny was not a drekka or a drowther. He has a secret within himself that if revealed could bring upon not only his death but the demise of his entire family. Afraid that one of his cousins or family members would learn the secret, Danny escapes from the compound and enters the world of drowthers. Thus begins the journey for Danny in an adventure that is filled with danger and excitement. Where does this take him? How does it affect his family? And much more is what we see in the rest of the plot in this first book in the trilogy.
With this plot Orson Scott brings forth magic that was forgotten since five thousand years and was perhaps last used in 600 A.Ds. A unique blend of all mythologies we have heard or read so far from any region can be seen in this book. Of course we get a lot of architectural and mythological tour in the process. And don’t forget the physics lessons we get along the way. Like I said, a unique blend of so many things Orson Scott puts together into this fantastic plot.
Orson Scott uses so many old English, Norse and other language words that some I thought were just made by him for the sake of the book. However there are some words that exist for real although they may mean differently in the context the author uses here though. For instance, he uses the Icelandic word drekka for a person who doesn’t have any ability of magic or power while the word in Icelandic language means drink.
Orson Scott covers a varied kind of mythological families living among the humans. Interesting that more than once he had mentioned them living in and around India, my birth country. Always nice to read about my birth country in any non-Indian authored novels I pick up.
He summarizes the life of a teenager perfectly well with all the hurdles than an adolescent would face. Took me back to my days of adolescence except there was no magic or demi-gods involved in my life. Jokes apart, Danny North became truer and truer as the plot progressed.
In the author's afterward he had mentioned that the idea of Mithermages and the world of Westil was formed in 1977 and created a short story called Sandmagic in 1979. But he hadnt developed into a complete book and a trilogy until 2011 with this book. Although he did create another short story Stonefather in 2008, which by that way I havent read yet and neither I have read Sandmagic.
It is truly amazing that the idea floated in his brain for nearly 34 years before a complete book unfolded. However he did mention that in the meanwhile he had created and published Mithermages maps in the 1987 short story collection Cardography.
An enchanting and exiting adventure that the readers follow along with Danny North between two worlds leaving readers wanting to read more and more.
1) Plot Reveals:
a. North Family compound has many family members aka demi-gods, that are either supportive of Danny or resent him - Grandpa Gyish, Great-uncle Zog, Aunt "Lummy" Lumtur and Uncle Mook and their daughter Megan, Uncle Poot, Auntie Tweng, Auntie Uck, Thor and his sons - Lem and Stem,
b. Different Wesilian Families that had ruled the world as Gods were - the Phrygians, the Hittites, the Greeks, the Celts, the Persians, the Hindi, the Slavs and the Norse.
i. However, the Persian family had been wiped out by Tamerlane or Timur - the 14th century Mongol conqueror. More about him here.
ii. The Sanskrit family lived in the lower reaches of the Himalayas and were quite poor and shabby just like the North family.
iii. The Greek family prospered due to the plethora of seamages or poseidons they had. Some of the members consists of Valbona, Agon, a little girl Yllka of about eleven or twelve years,
c. Kingdom of Iceway, a kingdom that is in a different world on a different planet.
i. Ruled by King Prayard living in his castle of Nassassa along with his wife Bexoi (sister to their rival king, Jarl of Gray), his concubine Anonoei, his sons by Anonoei (Eluik and Enopp).
ii. Highvalley family near the Icekame - Roop, Levet and their kids Eko (oldest girl of eleven), Immo, Bokky and three other children. During one of their trips into Forest Deep behind Icekame, Eko and her father Roop end up rescuing a man in the tree who had been there for centuries. He reaches the Nassassa castle and is named Wad.
d. Some fifteen centuries ago, the Norse god Loki had closed all the Great Gates between Westil and Mittlegard - the Earth - forbidding any of the Westil families stuck on earth to travel to Westil and become from mages to gods.
2) Interesting words that Orson Scott Card uses in the book, that I understood them as closely as possible per the context used as I was reading. However someone has gone on to create a Wiki of characters and words in the Mithermage Series. Here is the link to that.
3) Orson Scott mentions several literary works that are related to works of gods or written by gods and movies that bring out a lot imagination of human mind in this plot:
a. Works of Homer, Eddas (Medieval Icelandic works), Vedas (Ancient Hindu scriptures), Sagas (Old Norse mythology)
b. Orson Scot mentions that the North Family kids read the Bulfinch's Mythology as part of their curriculum. I wasn’t sure if it was a made-up name until I googled it up. Indeed the book exists and it was written by Thomas Bulfinch and was published after his death. It was more a collection of myths and legends from three eras: Greek and Roman mythology, King Arthur legends and medieval romances. More about the book here.
c. One of the acquaintances of Danny along his journey, Eric muses on the 1958 horror film The Fly, the TV shows Twilight Zone and Stargate! While musing about his encounter with Danny.
d. Danny hasn’t seen movies while living with his family. Some of the movies when mentioned that stump him are: Forrest Gump.
e. However Danny does read some interesting young adult books - Holes by Louis Sachar, Bruiser by Neil Shusterman, Friend is not a Verb by Daniel Ehrenhaft
4) Different kinds of mages Orson Scott educates the reader in the plot:
a. Beastmages - Eyefriend or Clawbrother or Clawsister or Cowsister (ability to roam the world in animal form)
b. Gatemages - Pathbrothers / Pathsisters or Lockfriends (one who had ability to create paths and unlock doors when needed); Gatemage / Gatefather / Gatemother (One who can create gates to move from one place to another on earth, also have healing abilities); Keyfriend (One who could reach through already made gates).
c. Seamages - Seamage (One who has ability to make their ships prosper and never sink); Wavebrother (a seamage with power to make currents flow where needed), Tidefather (powerful seamage who can invest their outself in a particular current so it can flow in whatever way they want as long as they lived); Puddlekin; Watersire;
d. Windmages - Galebreath (one who can turn away an unwanted storm)
f. Stonemages - Rockbrother (One who has affinity for pure metals); Siltbrother (One who could improve soil); Cobblefriend (who can find rich ores for miners); Muckminder; Claymistress;
g. Treemages - Meadowfriend (one who can aid in harvests), Sniffer (one who can sniff out gates); Treefriend; Seedservant; Rootherd;
h. Firemages - Firemaster or Lightrider (one who can create flame with nothing); Lightmage (Who can change the color of reflected light to make things near invisible)
4) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:
a. On Pg.7, while describing different Westil families, Orson Scott mentions one family as The Hindi. But again on pages 33 and 34, he mentions The Sanskrit family. I am guessing both are same, and it must be a miss on Orson Scott's part on naming them as Hindi in the beginning and later changing to Sanskrit.
b. On Pg. 207, line 7, it should be :…stuff into one of the cartons…"
c. On Pg. 377, the author suddenly names the sour expression girl with acne as Pat. Nowhere earlier he mentions her name until then. And there was no correlation to the girl he described earlier so it is left to the readers assume that the sour expression girl with acne he described earlier was indeed Pat.
d. I see a confusion created by the author for the time period that passes in this book. Was it three years or two years?
i. In the beginning of the book Danny was thirteen years old and he has his sixteenth birthday somewhere 3/4th into the book when he was living with Leslie and Marion. So it is definitely atleast three years that the story moves.
ii. On Pg. 269, it is mentioned that Wad has been living in the castle of Nassassa. While on Pg. 319, Hull muses that it has been two years since Wad has come to castle of Nassassa.