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Bookends: Trying to keep the monsters at bay October 19, 2014

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Raven's Gate

Bookends: Trying to keep the monsters at bay

By Dan Davidson

March 12, 2014

– 766 words –


Raven’s Gate: Book One of the Gatekeepers

By Anthony Horowitz

272 pages

Scholastic Press



If you haven’t been wandering the Young Adult section of your local bookstore, you may still find the name Anthony Horowitz familiar. He’s been a writer on a number of BBC mystery shows, including the long running Midsommer Murders and Poirot, and he both created and wrote the Foyle’s War series.

Raven’s Gate is apparently a reboot of earlier attempt at a fantasy series that was never completed. Then Horowitz wrote his very successful Alex Rider (sort of a teenage James Bond) series and it appears he got the opportunity to retool his earlier work. Given that this is a fantasy series, J.K. Rowling may have had something to do with it. Comments I have seen online indicate that while the broad strokes of the original series are intact, the details and some of the characters have changed.

Matt Freeman is the central character of this book. When we meet him he is a disturbed teenager who has made some bad choices in life and is in trouble. Part of this stems from the loss of his parents at an early age and the very poor upbringing he’s been given by his surviving relatives.

In court for having participated in a break-in at an electronics warehouse, he is given the option of prison or taking part in the LEAF project, which is pitched to him as a program for young offenders. He is to live and work at a farm out in the country, while also attending school and shaping up. At least that’s what he’s told. Succeed at this and he will be given back his freedom.

Instead, when he gets to Mrs. Deverill’s farm, Hive Hall, he is kept isolated and made to work long hours. When he is taken to Lesser Malling, the nearby town, he finds everyone seems to be studying him as if he is some sort of specimen. When he tries to escape on his own he finds that no matter what road he takes he always ends up back at the farm.

Matt fears he is going crazy when he seems to be developing psychic abilities: precognition, psychokinesis and astral projection. His ability to foretell events is the first one he is aware of, and he has tried to suppress it because it is the reason he wasn’t in the car with his parents when they died. He was very young then, but he saw the accident and refused to go with them that day.

When he cannot escape, and when everyone who tries to help him dies mysteriously (a well meaning policeman being the first victim) Matt slowly realizes that he is being held for a purpose, that all the people in the nearby village are members of a witches coven dedicated to breaking down the barriers (the gates) that prevent ancient horrors (think H.P. Lovecraft stuff here) from breaking through into our world. In time he learns that he is somehow the reincarnation of an ancient hero who, with four other people, erected the gates that keep these beasts at bay.

Managing his escape from the farm and the immediate area of Lesser Malling, he hooks up with a beginning journalist named Richard Cole who desperately wants to tell his story. Together they reluctantly begin to explore some of the possibilities suggested by the things Matt has heard and seen in visions. Eventually they come into contact with some members of a shadowy international group known as the Nexus, who have an interest in young people with nascent powers and a mandate to keep the gates closed.

Any remaining skepticism they might have had regarding powers and ancient evils is banished during one horrific night in a museum, when the skeletons of ancient dinosaurs appear to come to life and actually kill Dr. Sanjay Dravid, the member of the Nexus that they had come to visit.

Matt is recaptured by the witches and returned to Yorkshire, where the shell of a decommissioned experimental nuclear power plant turns out to have been built over the site of one of the stone circles (a henge) which marks one of the gates. The plan is open the gate. The mechanism is a blood sacrifice. Matt’s blood.

Horowitz builds the story up very nicely and uses this book to outline the basic concept that will drive the next four books in the series. It was marketed in the UK as The Power of Five series, while the North American versions used his original Gatekeepers title. The five books were written between 2005 and 2012 and are all currently in print.







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