A long-winded epic. One step forward, two steps back.,
This review is from: Spirit Gate: Book One of Crossroads (Paperback)
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.