Thursday, July 28, 2011

The godmaker

kw: book reviews, fantasy, magic, mythology

What if all the old myths were real? If magic were being held in abeyance for a time, but is poised for a resurgence? What if, among the mages, a few could still become gods, and a god be born who could make other gods? (Even as I write it, I realize that this last question is answered in Mormon theology by their concept of Jesus. Orson Scott Card started out a Mormon, and I suppose he still is.)

Reading Orson Scott Card's latest, The Lost Gate, has been a great way to get right out of myself. While I usually read fiction looking for interesting ideas, I read Card for his characterizations. His books are all morality plays, and in the past some of his "good" characters were, as I think of it, pathologically good. With experience, he's gained some balance.

Danny North grows up thinking he's a non-mage among mages, but turns into a late bloomer, and (could you guess?), the greatest mage of all. It is the ultimate Ugly Duckling story. Because of some senseless taboo held by the magical Families secretly living in the modern world, a powerful mage like Danny is supposed to be killed as soon as his powers become evident. Danny escapes.

The crux of the matter is this. The greatest mages are the Gatemages, and the greatest Gatemages are Gatefathers, those who can create a Great Gate to the planet Westil where the mages originated (along with all other non-mage humans). Once a Great Gate is produced, those who travel through it, both ways, multiply their powers. All Gates heal, but a Great Gate makes a mage into a super-mage, and makes the strongest mages into nearly immortal gods. All the Gates were destroyed thirteen centuries ago, and the former gods are in hiding, just itching to be re-deified.

Much of the narrative describes Danny's coming of age, and the somewhat parallel life of a powerful Gatemage on Westil whom Danny will one day need to confront. Along the way, Danny gains a few allies, and comes to this realization: as he gains godlike power, who else will he allow to benefit from it? Who can be trusted to resist the corrupting influence of great power? Of course, Danny himself must do so.

The book's Afterword makes it clear that Card intends to continue the series; Stonefather was an earlier book in this mage world. It will be interesting to follow the tug-of-war within the author as he explores Danny as a maturing Mage. Follow Card and his publishing schedule at Hatrack River.

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