A kid that discovers that he has amazing powers. An epic struggle between good and evil. Teenage drama. Coming of age. Magic. Perspectives on life, the universe, and everything. They’re all packed into an urban fantasy setting in the three novel Mither Mage Series (The Lost Gate, The Gate Thief, Gatefather) by Orson Scott Card. Here are a few thoughts on the series…
Being a fan of Orson Scott card and having a growing interest in the urban fantasy genre of books (think magic in modern times), I decided to give this series a try after my wife picked it up for me on a whim from the library.
The series follows the early and teenage years of Danny North, a boy considered to be a “drowther” by his family of mages since he has no magic capability. However, he soon finds out that he is a “gate mage”, known to be one of the most powerful type of mages, but also required to be killed on sight due to a tradition dating back nearly 1500 years. Danny runs away from home and seeks out a life on his own, eventually meeting up with a few other mages, a handful of “regular” kids, and discovering he is the most powerful mage ever known. As he is coming of age, the weight of the world begins to rest on his shoulders.
Meanwhile, in another time / planet / dimension (purposefully left vague here by me 8^D) a man climbs out of the trunk of a tree. How long he has been there he doesn’t know, yet he seems to possess the same astounding powers of a gate mage, but unsure about why he has them or what he is supposed to do next. Eventually his path and Danny’s will cross, but how and why will need to be discovered by reading the book.
Amidst all of this is a universe and a lore that dates back to the creation of the world and the fundamental forces of good and evil. They will play a big role in this series as well, especially as Danny and others seek to conquer it. Mages have a big part in this, and most interestingly enough the old “gods” of Thor, Zeus, Odin, and others are actually mages from years past, their deeds trumped up by “drowthers” who didn’t fully understand them. Why mages dwell among us (this is a modern setting) is an interesting back story as well, as they become divided into “families” and aren’t really recognized by the world at large.
I found the “mechanics” of magic in this modern universe to be really interesting and fun as it played out through the book. There is a symbiotic relationship that occurs between a mage and the element they “serve” and it makes you start to think about parallels about how one might live their own life. This concept begins to go even deeper into the mind, body, and soul and deeper truths begin to be discovered though Danny’s adventures. A lot of this series is about discovery. You are let in to discover new “tricks” in magic and new “truths” about the mind and soul as Danny (and other characters) discover them as well.
However, I found the book a little bit disjointed at times. It felt as if there was a whole universe and magical mechanics that was trying to be shared, but not enough space to do it in. What appears to be the biggest issue of the series winds up being resolved about two-thirds of the way through the second book in the series. There are several chapters and scenes that have enough build up to them to appear to be major storyline points, but are never resolved or re-visited. The ending felt a little bit rushed to tidy things up as well. There are a few violent and sexual scenes in the series that make it unsuitable for younger teens in my opinion.
Admittedly I could have read the series from the completely wrong perspective. I could have focused a bit too much on the action and not enough on the underlying concepts and character development to appreciate the story that was being told. I’ve read enough of Card’s books to respect and enjoy his writing, but for this series I would give it a 3 out of 5 rating. It is a fun read, and has some really interesting thought experiments, but probably nothing that will linger for a long time.