Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Review: The Seventh Gate (Death gate Cycle) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

The seventh and final book in the Death Gate Cycle is aptly named. It brings together the various worlds that have been visited in the earlier instalments, the main characters and central threads of the storyline.

The integration of important characters from different worlds (Ramu, Xar, Balthazar, Kleitus etc) works very well. There is definitely a strong sense of the plot building to a crescendo, from the first chapter almost until the very last. Perhaps unexpectedly the dragon-snakes and Sang-drax do not feature too prominently, but I think that this is to the advantage rather than the detriment of the book.

A lot of the book is spent with characters trying to retrieve others. Initially, Hugh the Hand and Marit track down Alfred, who went missing during the battle in Labyrinth. Later, they try and bring back Haplo by entering the fabled Seventh Gate, which was imbued with incredible power by the Sartans before the Sundering. The Seventh Gate is also sought by Xar, who wants to use it to bring together the worlds and rule what they become, and the dragon-snakes.

I think that the ultimate conclusion of the Seventh Gate and the main storyline (the Patryn/Sartan battle for supremacy and Xar’s quest to unify the worlds under his rule) could have been handled a bit better. For a start, Haplo dies. Nothing wrong with the protagonist snuffing it, but he comes back without any cost and with not much explanation. More importantly, Xar got hoodwinked almost immediately by the dragon-snakes and even when he doesn’t trust them anymore turns his back on them and almost gets killed because of it. Never mind that he’s a tremendously powerful and wise fellow, you’d have to be a damned fool to do that.

I think that the higher power storyline wasn’t really fleshed out enough. There was no definitive conclusion and that made the manner of Sang-drax’s death seem a bit feeble.

However, I did think that the dovetailing of other important characters, especially Balthazar, Ramu and the Patryns/Sartans who lived in the Labyrinth worked well.

I also think that the explanation of Zifnab’s history was a good one (first mentioned in Into the Labyrinth, I think).

I liked most of the book, but the climax could have been better.

Having finished the Death Gate Cycle I’m going to try making some progress with The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Not sure if I’ll have many book reviews in the next few weeks, but I’ll try putting together an early Skyrim preview.


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