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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much better!
Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars series would have been up there with the very best on my fantasy list if it hadn't been so long winded - and that is me being kind. For this reason I've put off reading Spirit Gate for quite a while and have only just finished it - and I'm glad to report that that all the old problems seem to have been ironed out and it is an excellent...
Published on 28 April 2010 by J. Cook

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars These Eagles Can't Quite Take Wing
Ms. Elliott has established a fair reputation with her Jaran series and the Crown of Stars set. This book looks like it might be the start of another incredibly long series. In and of itself, long stories are not a problem, as they allow the author to properly set the scene, build up all the little details of the world, and explore the characters in depth, and there's a...
Published on 18 May 2009 by Patrick Shepherd


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much better!, 28 April 2010
By 
J. Cook "Anna" (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars series would have been up there with the very best on my fantasy list if it hadn't been so long winded - and that is me being kind. For this reason I've put off reading Spirit Gate for quite a while and have only just finished it - and I'm glad to report that that all the old problems seem to have been ironed out and it is an excellent story.
The first half of the book mainly concentrates on character and world building and that does slow it down a tad, but the action soon picks up and it had me turning the pages at a furious rate. In fantasy terms there is nothing really new here, although the author keeps it fresh by introducing new people throughout and making you interested in their day to day lives. There is a very brutal conflict at the centre of this book, but it is also very character driven and that puts it above many other series in this overcrowded genre.
I'm already half-way through the second part and the third is on it's way from the US, as I'm too impatient to wait for August when it is due to be published over here. Best fantasy I've read in quite a while.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping and mysterious storyline, 26 May 2007
This review is from: Spirit Gate: Book One of Crossroads (Paperback)
Kate Elliott has started a new series after finishing the "Crown of Stars" (7 volumes!). She tells the story of a world that is slowly coming apart. The reeves flying on great eagles try to uphold the law, but they are failing. For most of the book it is not at all clear if there is a driving force behind this descent into destruction and war. And it is only towards the end of Vol. 1 that one starts to get inkling what this mysterious cause might be.

Despite the fact that she introduces a number of main characters, she manages to maintain the momentum and the tension. You keep wanting to know what will happen next and keep getting surprised too.

I sincerely hope that Ms Elliott will not revert to her rambling style of the final volumes of "Crown of stars" and keep introducing new main characters each with their own story, completely loosing her focus on the central plot.

She's got off to an excellant start. But then so was the "The King's Dragon", the first vol. of "Crown of stars".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully constructed, well paced fantasy, 12 April 2013
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If you like fast, action packed novels that rush from fight to fight, then this probably won't appeal to you.

However, if you enjoy world building, sympathetic character development and multi faceted story lines, then you may enjoy it as much as I did.

The entire book is shown (not told). I have been wondering if this was a forgotten art! The reader has the world (3 cultures, climates and countries + subcultures and rebellious individual attitudes) shown by observation. By the end of this book you could read a description of a town market, or village, and know which country you were in. The courage, pathos, generosity and venal self interest of the characters is revealed by changing points of view and occasionally overlapping timelines. The effect is beautiful (and I don't often say that).

I'll be starting the next vol this evening.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping story but slow to get started, 9 Sept. 2009
Spirit Gate is very slow to get started but eventually becomes quite a page-turner.

The book is the first in a series, meaning the author devotes considerable chunks of text to painting a picture of a detailed, alternative world. As a result, you have to grapple with large amounts of geography, an array of cultures and a whole string of characters. This makes for very slow reading initially, which can be quite heavy-going as you struggle to absorb all the information.

However, stick with it, because it is worth it. About halfway through, the story really gets going. There is a variety of convincing characters, a fascinating mix of cultures and plenty of excitement, mystery, romance and adventure to keep you turning pages.

If for nothing else, read this book as a foundation for the second volume in the series, Shadow Gate, which is much easier reading. This second book has a gripping plot, clears up lots of unresolved questions and uses far fewer of the description-heavy passages that slowed down the narrative pace of the first book.

In summary, Spirit Gate is well worth a read but is slow to get started and can be overly detailed at times. However, the pace picks up considerably in the second half of the book and things really get going in the sequel.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars These Eagles Can't Quite Take Wing, 18 May 2009
By 
Patrick Shepherd "hyperpat" (San Jose, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Ms. Elliott has established a fair reputation with her Jaran series and the Crown of Stars set. This book looks like it might be the start of another incredibly long series. In and of itself, long stories are not a problem, as they allow the author to properly set the scene, build up all the little details of the world, and explore the characters in depth, and there's a lot of that set-up work done in this novel. Much of this is quite good, as she gives us a look at not one but multiple different societies, each with their own culture, habits, gods, and idiosyncrasies, along with a fairly nice reworking of the old trope of giant flying creatures capable of hauling people around with her eagles that are at least a little less unbelievable than the fire-breathing dragons that inhabit too many fantasies.

However, there becomes just too much of this background and scene setting. Every time someone walks down the street, every detail of that street needs to remarked upon, every peddler, beggar, fruit stand, scent, and building. The world mythology is detailed multiple times, frequently with the exact same words. After a while, this continuous descriptive work becomes overwhelming and smothers the story. In a planned series of books, I don't expect the first book to have a great amount of story/plot development, but here I found only enough to really occupy about a 200 hundred page book. As it actually runs to over 400 pages, that's a lot of filler.

Her character development is good, with enough depth given to several characters to make me care about what happens to them, and I found these people to be generally likable even with their obvious character flaws. The problems her characters face grow naturally from the environment and the starting premise of the book. Her world seems to somewhat standard for a fantasy novel, with no high-tech wonders and a generally feudal type structure, but she has added the province of the Hundred, which seems to be much closer to a people's democracy with guaranteed rights for individuals, aided by benevolent, and, at least the beginning of this work, respected judges. As such, it makes an interesting contrast to the rest of her world.

An interesting story line and world populated by real people, but in severe need of pruning some of the excess descriptive work.

---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the best tradition, 23 Jan. 2013
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I bought this book having been entranced by the first page and was not disappointed on reading it all. Kate Elliot paints a superb picture of a land, its varied peoples, their beliefs and politics. Worthy of being categorised as in the best Tolkienesque tradition.

I then had to get the next in the series and the next....

I have now read this book and its companions three times and will read them again.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A Spirited Effort, 6 Feb. 2015
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Fantasy writers never seem to write in single volumes, but even by the usual standards of the genre, Kate Elliott's seven volume "Crown of Stars" series was maybe overdoing it a bit. As if that wasn't enough, she apparently plans much the same for her "Crossroads" series, of which "Spirit Gate" is the first part.

Years ago, The Hundred was ruled by mysterious Guardians, who supposedly could not be killed. But these Guardians have not been seen for many years and law and order is upheld by Reeves, who patrol the skies with large eagles. But their authority is being undermined and The Hundred is turning into a lawless place where merchants cannot transport goods from one place to another without fear of being attacked and no-one knows when this first started and who is behind it.

In another part of the world Mai, a woman from Kartu Town, is pledged in marriage to Anji, an officer in the army of the Qin, who conquered their country some time before. However, secrets Anji is harbouring force them to flee North, along with some of his soldiers and Mai's brother Shai, who is hoping to find out what happened to his brother Hari, who disappeared many years previously and who has been traced to The Hundred. Also travelling from the South is the merchant Keshad, a slave who finds a treasure rich enough to be able to buy not only himself out of slavery, but also his sister.

These are just the basic characters, but there is a cast of thousands in "Spirit Gate", all of which have their own story and their own part to play. Kate Elliott is very good at giving her characters life and making you like or hate them, it does mean that most of the book feels like character building with very little else. Whilst this means that the whole book forms a rich tapestry of people, it does mean that the action falls to the wayside a little and that there is little explanation of the customs of the various lands, which might have been helpful given the various gods that they different characters seemed to follow.

Another problem is that with so many characters, once she's been around all of them so you can get to know them, you can forget what's gone before. At one point, I had to go back and check on exactly who a character was as we'd been away from him for so long that I'd forgotten and I was quite embarrassed to discover he was a vital character. That said, once things settle down and you're more accustomed to the characters, they are so well drawn and so individual that you can't possibly get them mixed up.

This gave me a love-hate relationship with the book. In the beginning, it did drag quite a bit and it wasn't an easy read as the characters always seemed to be travelling, but the story was never going anywhere. Admittedly, once they were all in their assigned places, things did pick up a little bit and events seemed to be moving quite quickly towards a conclusion. There again Elliott surprised and disappointed me a little, as the big climax that the story seemed to be pointing towards was over too quickly, but there were then a couple of little subtle twists that point the way intriguingly to the next in the series.

If you like character driven fantasy, this will be a wonderful read as that's where Elliott's strength lies. Even though I consider myself more of a fan of action than people found myself wondering what had happened to a couple of the characters at some points and put the book down at the end thinking about where they're going to go next and how their lives will go on.

This, I think, is the true beauty of "Spirit Gate". It is an opening in quite a long series, so it doesn't want to give too many secrets away, but it's masterfully done to leave you wanting more. If Elliott didn't have the gift for characterisation that she does, this would have been an incredibly boring read, but as long and as slow paced as it was from the start, I'm eager to read more. Elliott has shown us the gate and I'm left wondering what lies on the other side.

This lack of secrets does mean that if you like this sort of thing, it's a book to be bought rather than borrowed, as you may need to check back in future parts of the series, should you get that far.

This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
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3.0 out of 5 stars A long-winded epic. One step forward, two steps back., 20 Sept. 2013
I picked up Spirit Gate four years ago with a few other fantasy books, but there's a reason why this has sat on my book shelf for so long. Originally, I was intrigued by the blurb on the back, the fact that it was written by a female author, and the knowledge that I'd be getting a real meaty 600 page epic fantasy novel. I was, unfortunately, a little disappointed when I eventually picked up the book last week. After reading the prologue, I was instantly taken by the character of Marit, only to realise that she gets picked off at the very beginning and we focus on the less than intriguing (more selfish) character named Joss many years later. From a fast-paced introduction, to a character I really didn't like from the offset was a big disappointment. That aside, there were a number of complications within the book.

First of all, if you're looking for action this is not the book for you. As many other reviews have described, the book is character building, world constructing (and often deconstructing) as well as long-winded and, at times, entirely frustrating. I would often go through a bout of 50 pages or so which were hard to push through, then 50 or 60 pages that were gloriously written. I can only liken it to a 100 or 200 metre race in athletics: you've got the build-up and the hype, and then it's over in a blink of a second, and then you have more interviews to cool down. Just when I was getting into the battle action Kate Elliot had built up, she tears it down by skipping to another character in another place within the world she'd created. Dull. It's the fluff she doesn't need within the novel, and it's what eventually brings it down. In fact, there's no actual real storyline until the final 200 pages or so. And when you've read 400 pages, you end up sticking it out to the bitter end.

However, there are some real moments where the book takes a glorious shine. The religion, the demons, the guardians and a fair few of the characters create real intrigue and mystery. I personally loved the story of Mai and Anji and found them really great characters to read about, but then I found Joss particularly frustrating until page 350 or so. The culture of the world is really fascinating, and Elliot clearly pulls her inspiration from our own world, creating a fusion of cultures. The treatment of women as slaves and men who rape and mutilate those women is also present, which draws ties to our world also. But the book is saturated with world building and, because of this, the main storyline continually suffers.

This is the first time I've read any of Elliot's novels, but I'm not entirely sure I'll be picking the next one up in the series any time soon. And even then, it may have to wait another four years on my bookshelf. If you're familiar with Elliot's style and love it, then this is a great book. If you want battle action, avoid at all costs.
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5.0 out of 5 stars First and not the last, 14 Aug. 2014
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This is the first Kate Elliot book I have read and it will not be the last!
I found the first couple of chapters a bit slow going but this is a slow burn book. The level of detail and depth makes it all real and the characters are more than meets the eye, before you know it you will be at the end and just scrambling for the next installment. Loved it, as the stars indicate.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable reading, 30 Mar. 2013
This is another well written book which gradually lures you in until you start wanting to know what will happen next. It is initially slow moving as the characters, cultures and backgrounds are explained but before you know it, the author has woven a web of tales within one major over-arching tale that I personally found gripping. I am looking forward to reading the next book.
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Spirit Gate: Book One of Crossroads
Spirit Gate: Book One of Crossroads by Kate Elliott (Paperback - 18 Jan. 2007)
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