Spirit Gate (Book One of Crossroads) by Kate Elliott (book review)

December 29, 2016 | By | Reply More

‘Spirit Gate’ is the first book in the ‘Crossroads’ trilogy by Kate Elliott. It is mainly set in a medieval world in a country called the Hundred. The book has various point of view characters: Joss, Mai, Shai and Keshad. Joss and Keshad are from the Hundred, a country that has progressively been sliding into turmoil caused by unknown enemies. Shai and Mai are uncle and niece from Kartu, a town far from the Hundred and ruled by Qin overlords. All four characters are eventually meet in the Hundred as the book progresses.

Joss is a Reeve, who are peacekeepers of the Hundred, and is bonded to a giant eagle companion Scar, together they patrol the territory they are assigned to and aid those in need and capture criminals to be brought to court. Many years in the past, Joss’s lover, Marit, another reeve was killed in an ambush and the killers were never apprehended. Ever since then, the Hundred has been descending into lawlessness and chaos, Reeves are being murdered or forbidden from patrolling their territories by the common folk and no one can figure out who is behind these crimes.

Joss becomes an alcoholic womaniser after the death of Marit, for which he blames himself but still steadfastly works for the greater good of the people of the Hundred as a Reeve. He takes it upon himself to find out who the people responsible for the rapidly increasing attacks.

Keshad, on the other hand, is an indentured slave of the rich merchant Feren. At a young age, after the death of his parents, Keshad and his sister Zubaidit are sold into slavery by their relatives. Keshad, after many years of slavery, has been saving up money made from things he found when he goes to the Sirniakan empire, a country bordering the Hundred, to act as a buyer for Feren. When he gets his money, he buys back his sister from the temple of the Merciless One, the Goddess of war, death and desire. While Keshad wants to forget his past and create a new future, Zubaidit is no longer the girl he remembers and has her own goals, which also involves searching for the people that threaten the Hundred.

Mai is the daughter of a rich fruit-seller in Kartu town, she hides her true grit and cleverness behind her beautiful face by staying meek and dutiful for her domineering family. When a captain of the Qin, the strict and ruthless ruling overlords of her town, asks for her hand in marriage, the family cannot refuse. Mai is married to Anjihosh, who is also a a prince of the Sirniakan empire through his father. After his father’s death, his heirs try to eliminate Anjihosh as is their custom and, to escape them, he takes his loyal Qin soliders under his command and Mai to seek out a safe home in the Hundred. Anjihosh, unlike her family, admires and respects her for her true nature and together they too get embroiled in the fight for the Hundred when they arrive.

Shai is Mai’s uncle, though he is only a few years older than her, he is the seventh and unwanted son of his parents and is mostly ignored and scorned. As the seventh son of both his father and mother, he has the ability to see and hear ghosts, which is a hangable offence in Kartu. When Mai departs with her new husband, Shai is sent by his family to try and find the remains of his missing brother, Hari, who had been forced to become a solider by the Qin and sent to the Hundred. Shai struggles to find a place for himself with the Qin soldiers who humour him as their Captain’s wife’s relative but have little respect for him as his family did.

Kate Elliott writes very involved and interconnecting stories with thoroughly rounded characters. Each of her characters are individual and complex, they all have things you like and dislike about them, no one is anywhere near perfect just like in the real world. Each of the countries in the book are varied and have their own distinct cultures and religions and political issues which is engrossing. There are only a few small things I take issue with, such as the map in the front of the book. As a fair bit of the book is in Kartu town and the Sirniakan empire, I can’t see why these places weren’t added as well. A glossary of the gods of the Hundred and a bit of the mythology would also have been helpful as they are mentioned regularly but never really explained properly. Finally, I can’t see why Elliot needs to name things like animals, which don’t seem out of the ordinary, differently and garments like ‘taloos’, which is really hard to imagine with such little information and totally unnecessary. Having said that, it didn’t distract me too much from the interesting twist and turns of the book.

Supreethi Selvam

December 2016

(pub: TOR/Forge, 2007. 445 page hardback. Price: $25.95 (US), $32.95 (CAN). ISBN: 0-765-31055-4

pub: Orbit. 630 page enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84149-274-2)

check out website: http://www.orbitbooks.co.uk/, www.tor-forge.com and http://www.deepgenre.com/kateelliott.com//

Category: Books, Fantasy

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