Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Spirit Gate is the first book in Kate Elliott's Crossroad's series. The story is set in the Hundred, a land in trouble. For many years, the Guardians, an almost god-like group, dispensed justice and kept the peace. Now the Guardians are gone and presumed dead. The reeves, who ride giant eagles, patrol the land and have been the peace keepers for many years. But now, the reeves are losing the respect of the people and are becoming unable to do protect the people. A deadly, mysterious force has invaded the land, with an army that kills and lays waste to everything in its path. One reeve, named Joss, after suffering the loss of his fellow reeve and lover and sinking into years of rebellious, self-destructive behavior, is beginning to regain his resolve. A band of trained militia from outside the Hundred, led by the resourceful Captain Anji, come into the Hundred in exile from their own land. With Anji is his wife, Mai and one of her uncles. Together, they try to combat the forces intent on ripping the Hundred apart.
Sounds like a pretty standard plot, but the real interest in this book lies in the characters. There is a whole cast of people involved in the story, to more or less degree, but even some of the minor characters are well-drawn and personal. The female characters are strong and resourceful, and able to forge a place in what is, for the most part, a male dominated world. Mai in particular shows growth, appearing at first to be rather biddable and unassuming, despite an inner resolve. As she realizes that her new husband chose her because he recognized many of those strong traits in her, she grows more confident and willing to use skills learned in her family's merchant business to help Anji as he and his men get pulled deeper into the conflict.
The world is interesting and well drawn, with mythologies and religious aspects that come into conflict as the outlanders make their way into the new land. At times, the details can become a bit confusing, but don't take away from the enjoyment of the story. There is some introspective narrative, especially with Mai's uncle, as well as some instances of info-dump, but no more than with any first of a trilogy novel.
In all, it was an interesting and engaging read.
View all my reviews