Monday, September 2, 2019

The Hour of the Gate


Alan Dean Foster’s first Spellsinger sequel opens with human protagonist Jon-Tom and his companions appearing before the Grand Council of the City, County, and Province of Greater Polastrindu to discuss how to deal with the impending threat of the insectoid Plated Folk. While they convince the Council of the threat, the turtle wizard Clothahump suggests acquiring more help, chiefly in the form of the arachnid Weavers, and on their way to them, the group falls captive to the diminutive Mimpa, who intend to sacrifice them to the gods of Sward.

Then the party goes to the river Sloomaz-ayor-le-Weentli, where a frog boatman takes them downriver and through a mountain where they meet the Weavers, among them their Grand Webmistress Oll. After that comes a meeting with a tribe of mountaineering lemurs lead by Tolafay, who promise a way to the Greendowns where the Plated Folk reside. Magic provides disguises for the group to enter the capital of the Plated Folk, Cugluch, where their sorcerer Eejakrat is their target, as the insect magician’s powers hold key to his race’s powers, and the plot twists.

The battle that concludes the story reveals the meaning behind the book’s title, occurring at the Jo-Troom Gate dividing the Warmlands and the Plated Folk’s territory. Overall, the second Spellsinger story is an enjoyable one, given plenty of intelligent animal characters, action, and turns, predating Brian Jacques’ Redwall series by a few years and not falling to tropes that would plague that particular franchise such as races depicted in black and white terms. Foster’s franchise also has a target audience for older readers, given some occasional coarse language and greater violence, and I very much relished the opportunity to reread the series starting from the beginning.

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