CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 17 . . . . April 28, 2006
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.
Dave Watson, of Winnipeg, MB, is a sometime educator, sometime environmentalist and sometimes curmudgeon.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.