“The Gates of Golorath” is one seriously epic fantasy. Garino has taken a page out of such ambitious story tellers as George R.R. Martin when it comes to crafting vast and complicated house lines and the ties that bind them, as well as the fragile balance that many hold for no other reason other than tradition. The book focuses mainly on Angus and Arielle, two “angels” (who felt like elves to be honest) who go to train at the Gates in order to keep the forces of evil from ever being unleashed upon the human realm (I’m paraphrasing). But Garino introduces the reader to A TON of other characters, sometimes even showing us the world through their perspective, thus crafting a world that was so rich and vibrant that sometimes my body ached in sympathy pains for all the trials that our “young” protagonists go through (I say young because even centuries old they are still considered children). We watch as Arielle and Angus essentially go through boot camp so they can better prepare to protect their world, all while the author explains just what they’re protecting against, and why. Most of the action and conflict in this book revolves around house politics and competition for the highest honor, but honestly, I loved it and didn’t mind that the bigger conflict was only hinted at in this first book.
This is one of those books that’s a slow build due to its long set up, but the writing is so well done that you’re immediately immersed in the rich scenes with well-crafted action sequences and a magic system tied to an individual’s “aura” (it’s called something else in the book) that was both engaging and unique. Honestly, I forgot this was a re-imagining of the war of angels in the early days of human history for the story felt so removed from that event outside of a few history lessons the characters engage in. The tension of this story doesn’t come in the overt “we have to save the world” plot lines, but just the underlying tone that if the Gate falls, hell will be unleashed—literally. I liked that background tension as it allowed me to focus on the character arcs and enjoy their personal journey’s and triumphs without an all-consuming baddie getting in the way.
In fact, most of the tension comes from the narrator who retells the story of Angus and Arielle from a place of pain, stating that things now are in a bad place compared to the innocent beginnings of this young, bonded pair. The narrator, The Elder, is never formally named. But with the hints given, you can kind of guess who it is, and come the end of the book, that realization made me the most uneasy and not in the way where I’m yearning for the sequel to see what happens next. But because it felt like it undermined a lot of the triumphs of Arielle and Angus as they fight for what they believe in and want most despite tradition. I’m hoping I’m wrong about the Elder, but only future books will tell.
While I can’t praise the world and character building enough for this book, I am wondering what the next installment will focus on. Given all the characters and that the bigger battle was really only hinted at, plus with the Elder being all foreboding and what not, I’m uncertain as to what the next book will cover or who it'll focus on. But given how much I enjoyed this story, you can bet I’m excited for the next installment!
In fact, my only real issue with the book has nothing to do with the story, as long as you like a slow build and don’t mind some pretty detailed fight scenes, but with the house structure and the sheer amount of characters. The author included a glossary and house sheet, but it didn’t come until the end of the book and, frankly, I think it would have been a great deal more helpful at the start to better set up why certain houses didn’t get along and how the hierarchy of this world worked between the different military groups. The sheer amount of characters and their complexities got hard to follow at times, and I questioned why certain perspectives were even necessary, but the characters were so well built ahead of time that they didn’t feel like a worthless addition.
I really enjoyed “Gates of Golorath” and would highly recommend this book to fans of epic fantasies who enjoy well-crafted fight sequences and don’t mind getting lost in complex genealogies and character arcs. This is one of those stories you need to invest yourself in, and trust me, you’ll be glad you do when you get swept up in this marvelous fantasy realm. But because I did feel lost at times and I’m still really unsure how I feel about the narrator’s identity given where our main characters end up, I’m giving this a 4.5 star but am definitely rounding up, and can’t wait to see where the story goes from here! And thanks to the author for providing me with a copy for review!
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