Today’s team review is from Jenni
Jenni has been reading The Thirteen Gates by Elton Gahr.
Elton Gahr’s The Thirteen Gates: Apprentice reads like a juvenile novel.
When I say that, I don’t mean that it reads like a novel for juveniles or young adults – though that is obviously the age group it is geared towards—but rather the juvenile production of a young author, one who still hasn’t grasped the nuance of ‘show, don’t tell’, the finer points of foreshadowing, or the basics of plot structure.
In many reviews, this is where I would say something about how writing a novel is hard, it’s an arduous process and finesse comes with practice but Gahr has upwards of 15 distinct works according to his Goodreads page, so I’m not sure practice is the answer here.
The plot of Thirteen Gates follows teenaged Quinn, an accidental apprentice wizard, his best friend Tim (a Samwise Gamgee allusion who is introduced as such in literally the first chapter), and Hanna, an ifrit who maybe wants to kill the boys. Guiding from beyond the grave is Nate, a real wizard who sets the friends on their quest through a series of journals bequeathed to young Quinn in Nate’s will. Over the course of the novel our protagonists bound easily in and out of Gates that we’re told take decades to learn to traverse easily. These Gates lead to alternate worlds that we’re told can be deadly to the uninformed, but seem to mostly be populated by beings willing to help our protagonists once things are explained to them. The entire novel culminates in a showdown in New York City against the denizens of Olympus where, again, Quinn saves the day by doing something we’re told is extremely difficult and takes decades if not centuries to learn.
There are some interesting pieces to Thirteen Gates, but there are also strong intimations of other, better, YA fantasy books, like Lord of the Rings, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, and The Mortal Instruments. If the author could mature into his writing and shape those pieces properly, there might be an exciting novel somewhere in the mix, but for my own preference, I’d just as soon re-read The Lightning Thief instead.
The day that Nate died everything changed for Quinn. His long term mentor had helped him through the death of his father and far more. It also changed for everyone else, because Nate was a wizard who had closed the thirteen gates five hundred years ago. And now with his death those gates have opened and magic has returned to the world.
With corrupt wizards, monsters, fae, jinn and nameless elder abominations returning the world is almost entirely unprepared, but unbeknown to him Nate was teaching Quinn far more than it had first appeared. By convincing him to read books that explored the gods of Olympus, the adventures in Wonderland and many others he was teaching Quinn to be a wizard while hoping that the day the boy would need to learn to use magic might never come.
Now Quinn must prove that he isn’t a murderer, learn to control magic and protect the world from powers it hasn’t faced in five hundred years all while avoiding being killed by his best friend’s ex girlfriend.