________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 17 . . . . April 28, 2006


Raven’s Gate. (Gatekeepers, Book One).

Anthony Horowitz.
New York, NY: Scholastic (Distributed in Canada by Scholastic Canada), 2005.
254 pp., cloth, $23.99.
ISBN 0-439-67995-8.

Subject Headings:
Stone circles-Fiction.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Dave Watson.

***½  /4


Matt was standing on a tower of glistening stone. It was pitch-dark, but somehow he could still see. Far beneath him, the waves rolled forward as if in slow motion, thick and oily. There were rocks slanting outward, each one razor sharp…In the distance he could see four people standing on a gray, deserted beach. Three boys and a girl, all of them about his own age. They were too far away for him to be able to see their faces, but somehow he recognized them and knew they were waiting for him. He had to reach them, but there was no way. He was trapped on his tower of rock. The storm was growing and now there was something dark and terrible stretching out across the sea. A giant wing that was folding around him. The girl was calling to him.

“Matthew! Matthew!”

The wind caught the two words and tossed them aside. The girl pleaded with him, but time was running out for her, too. The beach cracked and began to break up. Dark crevices appeared, the sand spilling into them. The waves were rushing in. The four of them were trapped, unable to move.“I’m coming!” Matt called. He took a step toward them and stumbled, then twisted forward and fell. He cried out. But here was nothing to stop him. Everything spun as he plummeted through the night sky, toward the sea.

He woke up with a start.


Anthony Horowitz’s adolescent horror novel, Raven’s Gate, is the first of what will probably be a five book series, “The Gatekeepers.” At $23.99 each, collecting all of the books in the series involves a hundred-dollar plus investment. A reviewer of this book for CM should answer two questions. “Can the book stand on its own merits?” and “Is the series worth considering for smaller libraries?” My answer is “Yes” to both questions, especially if the reluctant male reader is one client for whom you have trouble buying books.

     At the novel’s beginning, Matt, a 14-year-old English boy already well known to the local police, finds himself way in over his head. An innocent man is dead, and Matt was there when he died. Rather than go to a youth correctional facility, Matt is allowed to live with a foster mom in a remote part of Yorkshire. It was a bad choice. Matt soon discovers that none of the people in the town of Lesser Malling are innocent farm folk, for even their children are part of a mysterious conspiracy. As Matt tries to unravel the mystery, the people who help him have a habit of dying. Will anyone else believe Matt before he ends up dead as well? A cynic would predict that, as this is a five part series, and a strangely familiar series to boot, Matt has a good chance of surviving to the final installment.

     Let me synopsize the plot for you. An orphaned boy is sent to live with horrible relatives as his parents had died in a terrible tragedy. He finds out that he may have latent magical powers that he never suspected he had. Powerful forces, both good and evil, have taken note of his incredible potential. A temporary victory of good over evil, won years before, is in danger of being undone. An evil entity struggles to return to the earthly plane. The unholy sacrifice of our hero is necessary to for this to happen. Shades of Harry Potter! If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, then Horowitz must certainly love J. K. Rowling. Still, with Rowling’s novels spaced two to three years apart, Horowitz fills the profitable gap she leaves quite well. He has sold over a half million copies of his novels, and he is a #1 bestseller in the UK. Fortunately for us all, Horowitz is heads above hack series writers like R.L. Stine. While the book’s vocabulary is an accessible seventh grade level, Horowitz makes use of the language to craft a solid story. He has a talent for description even when constrained by simple language. While at times an adult reader may feel a foreboding “Here comes yet another action sequence,” I can only admit to sometimes feeling that while reading Harry Potter as well. The proverbial reluctant reader needs his action fix, and Horowitz provides it as required. The novel’s conclusion, while a bit contrived, opens the way for the following four novels. It seems that we have three more boys and a girl yet to meet. While I look forward to meeting them, I can only hope that they are separate individuals and not merely a youthful company of Harry Potter clones.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Watson, of Winnipeg, MB, is a sometime educator, sometime environmentalist and sometimes curmudgeon.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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