Orson Scott Card built his early reputation writing science fiction, but with "The Lost Gate," he offers a solid entry point for a series that is all fantasy.
The story is a coming-of-age tale about Danny North, a young teen who has grown up on our world but is a member of the North family, a reclusive group of magic-workers descended from the gods of Norse mythology who are located in a valley in western Virginia.
In the story, groups descended from other mythological deities are located in similar enclaves. All of them are experiencing a weakening of their magical powers since they have been cut off from contact with Westil, the home world of the magical clans.
The key, as the title indicates, is a magic gate that makes it possible to travel from one world to the next. The last gate has been closed for hundreds of years. Now, of all the powers inherited by the Norths and other magical families, the power to create gates — portals that can transport individuals from place to place or world to world — is the most feared and the most anticipated.
While other forms of magic practiced by the North family are understood and passed along, no one understands gate magic anymore, until Danny discovers he has inherited the gift and must learn to control it.
"The Lost Gate" is story of Danny's three-year journey from learning his talent to controlling it that Card's tale takes flight, as Danny learning to navigate our world while coming to understand and control his magical gift — and doing so with bravery and cleverness.
Card populates the tale with believable characters and challenging situations, intertwining the happenings on our world with events taking place on Westil, a story of palace intrigue in a place where magical abilities are commonly accepted. It is clear early on that the story is leading to a clash of the two worlds, and the outcome sets up the premise for a promising fantasy series.
In "The Magic Gate," Card has set up a complex magical system that accounts for many of our mythological beliefs and legends such as fairies, trolls and werewolves, and then makes it accessible by placing the main story in modern society.
Danny North travels some tricky moral turf — using his power to shoplift and dealing with an older girl who is sexually aggressive — and the story probably isn't suitable for pre-teen readers. There is also some language that would be appropriate for a PG-13 audience. But teenagers and adults will find plenty to keep the reading in "The Lost Gate."
Marc Haddock has been a newspaperman for 35 years. He lives in American Fork with his fellow journalist and, more importantly, his wife, Sharon Haddock.
Editor's note: Orson Scott Card writes a column on a freelance basis for Mormon Times called In The Village.