The War Gate by Chris Stevenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The War Gate by Chris Stevenson
The War Gate is an enigma that begins to defy having a set genre. While it starts with a rather Paranormal almost Rosemary's Baby setup with some bit of mumbo jumbo about gates and the clear indication that Avalon Labrador might be getting a second chance by being reborn in the child she conceived without the act of sex and it move quickly into a Young Adult novel catching up with Avy the daughter as she graduates from school; has a birthday; and has her stepfather kick her out of house and home to get some job experience.
Avalon has been wrongly convicted of killing her husband and has been in prison for fourteen years. She is on death row when Father Janus Geminus visits supposedly to take her final confession. Through his agency she conceives a child and is saved temporarily from death-row to birth the child and then she passes away during childbirth with a hint of the notion she might be reborn. When Avy strikes out on her own due to her stepfathers insistence she will meet Janus Geminus who oddly seems to have not aged.
After Avy moves out she is compelled to learn more about her mother and she meets Sebastian, a magician who will give her a job as his assistant. This is where the book becomes a detective novel replete with all the transparency of a classic Noir mystery full of simile and metaphor to bring to mind the works of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Many of these phrases will borderline on cliche but for the most part they don't interfere with the intended tone of the story.
The reader and Avy discover more about the gates and Janus Geminus and we start to drift closely to Mythological time travel with teleportation within strange gates that exist within every door. Avy learns she is a gate-walker and she has the ability to use these gates. (likely because of how she was conceived and who her perceived father is.) There is direct correlation between Janus of the Roman myth and the Janus of this story which is made very clearly through the narrative.
A health portion of the novel is almost dark comedic mystery with a touch of romance until the WaxMan is introduced. It then becomes much darker and gritty and dangerous. This is when it dips heavily into the Paranormal and we learn more about Sebastian who seem to be a bit on the paranormal side of things. So we have a Paranormal Pseudo Noir mystery romance science fiction containing a bit of mythos and fable.
The plot is quite a bit convoluted at times and yet kept simplistic enough to follow with a few nice twists and turns that make it difficult to determine exactly where everything will end.
There was one point that I felt created a bit of inexplicable hole in the plot; that involved the grandparents of Avy. Since we find out early on that she looks a lot like her mother and she has been living with her uncle and aunt on her fathers side of the family.(The father that is not really her father.) There is an explanation given for her mothers mother having avoided seeing her, but none given that her 'fathers' parents have not seen her and this is important because at one point she is posing as someone else in front of both grandparents and no one recognizes her. And even though her grandmother on her mother's side had never seen her; just the fact that she looks a lot like her mother should have made that woman do a double take. There is no explanation about her uncles parents seeming to not know what Avy looks like.(Maybe they never visited.)
That aside everything is pretty tight throughout and the writing is great with good pacing though I was sometimes thrown off by the number of cliche like metaphors and similes that seemed mostly there to give the feel of an old classic mystery.
This story was definitely worth reading and I'll be looking forward to reading more especially Chris Stevenson's latest The Girl They Sold to the Moon as soon as the publisher decides to offer it in kindle format.
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