Title: The Thirteen Gates: Apprentice
Author: Elton Gahr
Publication date: May 4, 2021
Genre: Fantasy, YA
One Sentence Summary: When his friend and mentor dies, Quinn is left with a ring and the fact that magical gates are now open and he has to do something about it.
The Thirteen Gates: Apprentice is surprising as a fantasy mystery instead of strict fantasy. I have to say, the mystery part kept my interest much better than the fantasy. I had hoped for a lot of wayward magic and scary monsters suddenly appearing to wreck havoc, but, as a whole, the story much cleaner and didn’t have nearly as much magic and monsters as I had hoped for. I also struggle with the age group as it’s YA, but often felt younger than that, likely preventing a lot of the danger and tension I had longed for. Everything was also way too easy for the characters and there wasn’t much growth to them. Overall, it tried out some really interesting things, but, where it really mattered, it fell a little flat to me.
Quinn and his friend Tim have known Nate for years, but never guessed the old man has lived for centuries and that him being alive was keeping the gates to other magical worlds closed. But, when Nate dies, magic floods back and an ifrit, also known as Hanna, Tim’s ex-girlfriend, decides Quinn killed her friend and now she must kill him.
Now on the run from an ifrit who can’t control her powers and desperately seeking knowledge and access to powers as an apprentice wizard, Quinn and Tim travel across the country and back, jumping into gates while also trying to figure out if Nate’s death wasn’t natural.
The Thirteen Gates: Apprentice may be YA, and I don’t read much YA, but I loved the idea of gates to other worlds and magic and magical creatures suddenly flooding back onto Earth. I envisioned chaos that Quinn would have to navigate, and Quinn being on the run from everyone and everything in a desperate attempt to get a handle on his magic and close the gates again. In some ways, it didn’t disappoint, but, in others, it felt much younger than I expected.
The Thirteen Gates: Apprentice turned out to be more a fantasy mystery than just strict fantasy. I really enjoyed the twists the mystery brought, even if I did figure it out right away. But there were still turns that threw the characters, which worked because they’re teens. I really looked forward to seeing how they figured it out and what they were going to do about it. It turned out to be a lot of fun and a lot more action-packed and magical than I expected. As a fantasy, I felt like it was more adventure than filled with magic, but the mystery helped make it more interesting and kept my attention.
There is magic and magical creatures, but not quite as much as I expected. I really hoped the world would go crazy with the return of magic, and especially see Quinn had to suddenly deal with all these magical abilities he didn’t know he had and now has no idea how to control, but the story didn’t really focus much on anything outside of Quinn, Tim, and Hanna. I still don’t really have a clear idea of what most of the world, both ours and the ones through the gates, looked like. There was more detail to the worlds through the gates than the real world, but I was mostly lost about where in the real world it was set. And then I was shocked to discover these teenagers had made it to Vegas without declarations of missing children or something popping up on news reports. I wish there had been more magical creatures roaming the world and more dangers for Quinn and his friends to deal with, but what was there felt more ordinary than anything else. Quinn also seemed to be way more in control than he should be, like the magic was just little nudges he didn’t even realize were going on.
I struggled with this book. It felt like it was teetering between MG and YA. The characters were the right age for YA, but their trials and tribulations didn’t feel nearly as mature as YA tends to feel to me. There weren’t really any issues that usually crop up in YA books, so it felt more like an action and adventure MG fantasy that kept giving me flashbacks to The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, which was a bit annoying as I expected something a little more mature than that.
Quinn, too, was a struggle for me. Everything felt a little too easy for him and I had a hard time buying it. He’s completely new to everything, but somehow manages to be better than literally every other wizard who spent years studying before they could do anything Quinn ended up doing throughout the novel. Some of it was explained away at the end, but, by then, I was just frustrated. It might have been better if Quinn had had an interesting personality or showed growth, but I can’t for the life of me pin him down. He’s being raised by a single mother whose memories get manipulated and who seems far too understanding and lenient, and he wants to learn everything. I don’t know anything else about him, so it was impossible for him to grow. In contrast, Tim was really interesting. He has a history and background and I really loved his perspective on life despite it. I kind of wish he had been the wizard instead.
Overall, everything just felt too simple and either Quinn had all the answers or someone he knew had the answers. They so easily just waltzed into wherever they wanted to go and everyone around them seemed to think this was absolutely fine. Honestly, the only really fun part of this book was when they ended up in Olympus and I liked that it turned everything I knew about it on it’s head. But all the other worlds and even our own just made things so easy. All the answers were right in front of the, whether they were looking for it or not. The story was too smooth with not enough tension and not enough danger, even for YA, which is why it came off as much younger than that to me.
The Thirteen Gates: Apprentice could have had more power, more tension, and a stronger story if more meat had been put on it and if the characters had truly faced some serious trials. I felt a lot was lacking and there were no real problems the characters had to solve on their journey. There were a few things I enjoyed, but, overall, it was far from expected and just too easy for the characters.
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Thank you to Elton Gahr for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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