Danny North is completely normal. Which in his family isn’t such a good thing. The rest of his family–parents, aunt, uncles, and cousins who all live at the North compound in Virginia–are mages. They are all that remains of the powerful North family of mages, families who have been locked out of their home planet of Westil since the Last Loki closed the Great Gate. They are still practicing their powers, and are on the lookout for a gatemage to be born into one of the remaining Families. A gatemage could reopen the Great Gate between Westil and Mittlegard, which would cause competition between the Families and could possible allow the drowthers–regular humans with no magical heritage or extraordinary powers–to become mages as well. When Danny discovers he is a gatemage, he must escape the family compound and learn how to use his powers while hiding from the Families; for if they find him, they will kill him immediately. Danny is the next Loki, and he needs to stay alive if he wants to make a Great Gate and reconnect the worlds of Westil and Mittlegard.
I recently read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (which I reviewed here!) and while I liked the science fiction aspect and could appreciate the writing, I didn’t particularly love it. I heard so many good things about Orson Scott Card (mostly from people who went “Gasp! What do you MEAN you didn’t like Ender’s Game?!?”) that I wanted to give his writing another chance, so I picked a book that seemed completely different from the Ender universe. It certainly was different, but I still didn’t love the characters. There is something about the way Card writes teenage characters that I just don’t like, and I did not like Danny North. He was a trickster and a liar, so while he was well-written I just didn’t like the character.
I did enjoy the Norse mythology. Typically stories like this use Greek mythology, since that tends to be the kind people are more familiar with, at least in my experience. That was refreshing. And now, for the SPOILER ALERT!!
Parts of the story take place in Westil itself, and center around a young gatemage named Wad who just spent centuries living in a sort of stasis inside a tree. I almost immediately figured out what Wad was the same person as the missing Loki, the last gatemage who stole the gates and disappeared. Wad, like what we learn to be typical behavior for a gatemage, is another trickster with his own agenda. Watching him grow up and figure out who he is and what happened to him was more interesting to me than Danny’s story. I sympathized with him and want to know what happens to him next. Even though I didn’t love Danny, I do like Wad/Loki enough to want to read the next novel and see what happens to him.
The world building in this novel was cool. I liked the magic and different versions of mages. I didn’t quite understand the way some of the magic worked, but I didn’t let it bother me and just kept enjoying the “different-ness” (yes, I made up a word) of it. That was another reason I stuck with this book and am interested in reading the next one, even though I didn’t like Danny. This book redeemed Orson Scott Card for me. Still not my favorite author, and I don’t know if I will ever get back to the Ender universe, but I won’t be shocking people by saying I don’t like Orson Scott Card anymore.