fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Jane Lindskold Breaking the Wall 1. Thirteen Orphans 2. Nine GatesNine Gates by Jane Lindskold

The Orphans — at least in their current incarnation — had proven to be a chatty group. Hardly anything, from something as minor as what to have for dinner, to the planning of major expeditions did not get talked over — sometimes, she suspected, to the frustration of their allies from the Lands.

Sometimes to the frustration of the reader, too. The “talkiness” of this cast of characters was an issue in Thirteen Orphans, and it hasn’t gone away in Nine Gates. The characters still expound to each other at every opportunity. Sometimes they’re imparting useful information, albeit more pedantically than necessary. It’s less justified when the subject is, say, the definition of “homonym.”

However, I found Nine Gates to be more enjoyable than its predecessor. The book starts with a bang: a combat scene that drops the reader right into the action. This excitement doesn’t last, but Jane Lindskold intersperses talky scenes with more suspenseful sequences throughout the novel, so Nine Gates has a lot more forward momentum than Thirteen Orphans did.

Another aspect that fascinated me: the journey through several of the Chinese supernatural realms. I especially liked the hell dimension. Lindskold‘s research and imagination are used to great effect in these scenes, and the realms test the characters in interesting ways.

Speaking of characters, I’m pleased to report that Brenda is much less annoying in Nine Gates. The bad news is that the catty Honey Dream, who was introduced in Thirteen Orphans and becomes a point-of-view character in this installment, is twice as annoying as Brenda ever was. There’s a point to it — she actually has a really interesting character arc — but she got on my last nerve along the way.

So, the downsides are Honey Dream’s obnoxious ‘tude, the ongoing problem of the didactic conversations, and an odd dialogue tic that just bugged me. Lindskold sometimes puts dialogue tags in places where they disrupt the flow of the sentence, as in:

  • “I’m not wasting,” Pearl said, “time to run upstairs.”
  • “I have recruited,” Loyal Wind said, “horses to carry us swiftly to our destination.”

This may seem like a silly gripe, but it happened enough that I started noticing and being thrown out of the story by it. The problem isn’t that they’re placed midsentence; it’s where in the sentence they’re placed.

But, Nine Gates is worth it for the sake of the hell scenes. I now have the urge to do some reading about Chinese mythology and learn more about the folklore behind Lindskold’s creation.

Breaking the Wall — (2008-2010) Publisher: As evocative and moving as Charles de Lint‘s Newford books, with the youthful protagonists and exciting action of Mercedes Lackey’s fantasies, Thirteen Orphans makes our world today as excitingly strange and unfamiliar as any fantasy realm … and grants readers a glimpse of a fantasy world founded by ancient Chinese lore and magic. As far as college freshman Brenda Morris knows, there is only one Earth and magic exists only in fairy tales. Brenda is wrong. A father-daughter weekend turns into a nightmare when Brenda’s father is magically attacked before her eyes. Brenda soon learns that her ancestors once lived in world of smoke and shadows, of magic and secrets. When that world’s Emperor was overthrown, the Thirteen Orphans fled to our earth and hid their magic system in the game of mah-jong. Each Orphan represents an animal from the Chinese Zodiac. Brenda’s father is the Rat. And her polished, former child-star aunt, Pearl — that eminent lady is the Tiger. Only a handful of Orphans remain to stand against their enemies. The Tiger, the Rooster, the Dog, the Rabbit… and Brenda Morris. Not quite the Rat, but not quite human either.

Thirteen Orphans, Nine GatesJane Lindskold fantasy book reviews Nine Gates 2009 3. Five Odd HonorsJane Lindskold fantasy book reviews Nine Gates 2009 3. Five Odd Honors


  • Kelly Lasiter

    KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.