Genre: Fantasy, YA
Published: March 2011
Review by Lis
The second volume of the epic fantasy saga that began with The Hawk and His Boy takes us back to the story of the thief Jute. The emissaries of the Darkness have infiltrated the city of Hearne in search of him. Desperate to escape, the boy flees the city and heads into the wilderness of the north. But the ghosts of the past have other plans for him and, soon, Jute and his friends must choose between their own deaths or the destruction of the entire land. All the while, the mysterious lady Levoreth races against time in order to discover who is behind the schemes of the Darkness.
Alright, I’m guilty. Upon receiving this second installment in the Tormay series, I settled myself in my comfy chair with tea and chocolate and read until it was finished. Then I got caught up in moving, job hunting (damn those jobs are elusive) and knights and the review for this splendid book got pushed to the background. Bad me, no cookie!
You sometimes hear how the middle book is usually the one that is the less fun in a trilogy because it either goes really bad good guys or nothing significant happens. Not true for The Shadow at the Gate. It immediately picks up where The Hawk and His Boy left of and to me brought matters into focus where in was building up in the first book.
It is quite the lengthy story and there is a lot happening, so you have to keep watch out so you don’t miss anything important. There is a lot of action too, that will keep you on the edge of your seat and the plot thickens at every point.
The story is still about Jute who has destiny riding him hard with ‘the Dark’ (the great big evil) right behind it. Despite that he is still the street-smart boy we met in the first book, though you can see that Jute grows throughout this book. Ronan “The Knife” also carries a big part of the story. His ‘secret’ is an important part of the story and I liked learning more about this intriguing character. You tend to want to dislike him because of his role, but at the same time not everything is as black and white and you find yourself drawn to him.
Apart from the cast of characters that were introduced in the first part of the series, in the second part quite a few more are added. Some intriguing, some not. Some good, some bad. In this you can see that it’s a fantasy novel. There is always quite an impressive cast of characters and while I always like meeting new characters in a story that have their own part to tell, it also hard to keep track of them all and their moves. It’s the trap of a good book: the more characters that are introduced, the more likely that the reader will get lost in a maze of characters. I found that this author handled it quite well. While there are too many characters for my liking, they are introduced well and are not cardboard characters. And the shifts in narratives are smoothly. Though Jute is still my favorite character!
As I mentioned, there is a lot happening in this book. There is a lot of growth and development in this book (okay that made me sound like a scientist!). It also grows increasingly darker. Like they say: “it’s always darkest before the dawn.” There are more villains apart from “The Dark” and they are sufficiently creepy.
The one thing I didn’t like about this book was the ending. While it’s not exactly a great big open end, it leaves things open for the third part and as many of you know: I’m not a patient person!
Overall The Shadow at the Gate is a good if not better than the first installment and it’s a refreshing wind through the fantasy genre. I mean if it can pull me back into the genre it must be good, because y’all know how I love my boys! ;-) So go pick it up and find out what’s happening in this second part!