The Gate Thief
Orson Scott Card
The Gate Thief is the second of the Mither Mages trilogy, the first being The Lost Gate. It is better if you read the books in order, so do that. Be warned, there will be minor spoilers to the first book in this review.
This novel takes over where The Lost Gate left off, with a great gate finally having been built between our Earth and the mythic world of Westil. As history had recorded, those who travel through the gate have their powers greatly increased, and among the warlike families, this means trouble. All of the known families and at least one unknown family is after Danny North, including his own, wanting to either kill him or make him create a gate for them (and then, presumably, kill him).
However, Danny is no long as clueless as he was at the beginning of the first book, and has a handful of friends and a few clever plans. He also has one unmanageable problem, the world of Westil, which includes a good number of plots and plotters, and the Gate Thief. The Gate Thief has stolen every gate from every gatemage for centuries, and while Danny appears to be stronger than him, he is nowhere as knowledgeable or as tricky. Moreover, it looks like the Gate Thief might even be the good guy, saving the worlds from perpetual war and perhaps even a darker evil that can control those mages that have been empowered by travelling through the gates.
This brief overview doesn't begin to do justice to the plots within plots spanning centuries and worlds. As with the first book, everyone is engaged in their own schemes, making alliances, seeking revenge, and slowly building power bases. The world of Westil is violent and Machiavellian, and the Families on Earth less so only because they don't speak to each-other... or didn't until the Great Gate appeared.
While this book does a good job of keeping up the momentum of the first book and has a good number of surprising plot twists -- more than the first, in fact -- we start to move out of the 'exciting new worlds' stage and into the soap opera stage. There is quite a lot going on, and betrayal and revenge are only part of it, but it is a more central part of this novel than in the previous. Meanwhile, while there is still a good bit of exploring the new implications of inter-world magic and some digging up of historical mysteries, we start to leave the broad strokes of magic powers and delve into the mystic, and sometimes confusing, details. All of this is good fun, but it rather changes the tone of the story. After 400 pages of court intrigue, I was starting to wish for a little bit less drama. Of course, then the book ended and I wanted more, because Orson Scott Card is really a very good writer.
To the best of my knowledge, the next book in the series has not yet been announced, making the cliffhanger ending of The Gate Thief into nothing but a cruel taunt.
Parts of this story were published previously in Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show under the title Flying Children.