‘Shadow Gate’ is the second book in the ‘Crossroads’ trilogy set in the Hundred. It follows many of the point of view characters as the first book ‘Spirit Gate’ and adds to them.
After the battle of Olossi had been won at the end of the first book, the people of the Hundred still need to contend with the army lead by the other cloaked Guardians. Mai is working to make a home for their family and the Qin soldiers by assimilating them into the Hundred. While Anji has taken charge of Olossi’s militia to contend with the army led by the cloaked ‘demons’.
Joss, now a reeve marshall of the recently recovered Argent Hall, has to deal with finding and teaching new reeves to jess the returning eagles. He is painstakingly reasserting the old assizes courts which dispense law and justice in the region and making plans to house the refugees who are fleeing the army. Joss and Anji are working in conjunction with the leaders of Olossi to figure out who leads the army and their goals.
Keshad and Bai are brought back to Olossi after the temple has to give back the treasure Keshad had used to buy Bai’s freedom. Keshad is now kept as collateral in Mai’s household until Bai accomplishes her mission of killing the army leader. Shai joins Bai’s party to scout the army and find the remains of his brother along the way.
In ‘Shadow Gate’, we are reunited with Marit, the reeve who died at the start of ‘Spirit Gate’. Marit has now become a legendary cloaked Guardian. There were 9 cloaked Guardians who were given various gifts from the 7 Hundred Gods to dispense justice in the Hundred by presiding over the assize courts in conjunction with the reeves. No one has seen a Guardian for 3 generations and, during this time, the Hundred slowly descended into lawlessness and they are now only remembered in stories.
Marit struggles to come to term with what she now is and what is means. Her memories of Joss and her old life are still fresh, though she has been dormant for 19 years. She sets out to discover what being a Guardian means, although she soon figures out that some of them can’t be trusted.
Cornflower, who was discovered to be a cloaked Guardian at the end of ‘Spirit Gate’, is taken away to safety by Jothinin, another cloaked Guardian, to teach her their ways. She slowly comes out of her catatonia to reveal her tragic past as a nomad who was tricked into slavery to save her little brother.
The only other main point of view characters are Nallo and Avisha. Nallo is a refugee whose husband was killed by the army and is acting as a stepmother to his three children. When Nallo is jessed by the eagle Tumna, she leaves her 18 year-old stepdaughter, Avisha, in charge of taking care of her two young siblings in these uncertain times.
‘Shadow Gate’, as with all Elliott’s books, is a elaborate and involved book with well rounded, life-like and interesting characters. The book is a good sequel to ‘Spirit Gate’ as it revisits previous characters and expands the world by bringing in others. We can see a lot of the big picture of what is happening in the Hundred by the various character accounts while they themselves flounder with only incomplete and misunderstood information. Having said that, there is still a lot that Elliott has only hinted at without revealing such as the reason the Guardians disappeared.
My only complaint is that Elliott’s world-building is sometimes unnecessarily complex. A glossary would definitely be useful in a series like this, otherwise I am looking forward to the conclusion of the ‘Crossroads’ trilogy.
(pub: Orbit, 2009. 657 page enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84149-625-2
657 page enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84149-297-1)
check out website: www.orbitbooks.net