Title: Beckoning of the Gate (The Vayilian Threads #1)
Author: Benjamin J. Ryan
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Publication date: October 7, 2021
One Sentence Summary: When Santha comes to possess a mysterious key, fae begin to hunt her and those she loves, giving her little choice but to flee, and follow where the key leads.
Beckoning of the Gate is the first book in a series set in a world where the gate between the human and fae worlds has been closed, stranding fae on this side. It crosses a hero’s journey with a quest story that starts with a young woman finding a key and becoming stuck with it. Slowly, the key seems to take over, turning Santha into its tool, but also taking her across the world. It was fascinating to see the world and get to the know the history behind it. This world is also populated by interesting, diverse characters and their personalities were deep and unique. I wasn’t a big fan of Santha, but everyone else around her was fantastic, and I loved how wide open the world was. Despite a predictable story with few twists and turns, there’s still a lot to appreciate about this book and it provides a good launching point for the rest of the series.
After a mysterious death implicates Santha and ruins her reputation, she has a falling out with her mother, leading her to stay at the local school under the care of one of the teachers, leading to speculation about her relationship with him. Santha, though, holds her head high, even continuing to go about her chores at her family’s farm. It’s while she’s caring for her beloved goats that she encounters fae who would do her harm, leading her to stumble upon a key that won’t let her go.
Santha has no choice: in order to protect the very people who have shunned her, she must leave. Her teacher sends her off, after having prepared her the best he could, with a canine companion that was magically brought to life. Theirs is a tenuous relationship at best, but they travel well together, running into danger and even a brief stint at love. But the key is pulling Santha somewhere, and, as she learns more about the history of the past relationship between humans and fae, she comes to understand what might be asked of her.
Beckoning of the Gate sounded like it could either be portal fantasy or high fantasy to me, so I was intrigued enough to want to read it and find out for myself. I liked the world. It was sweeping and interesting even if it appeared to be modeled after the stereotypical medieval European world. But there’s a lot of history and lore strewn around and getting to the heart of it all was very interesting. This, though, felt very much like a hero’s journey crossed with a quest story as it follows Santha and her journey, but she’s also headed somewhere. It was fun to walk beside her as she traveled, but there was also something about Santha herself I wasn’t a huge fan of, so, while I enjoyed this, I didn’t exactly love it.
At the beginning of the story, Santha has been dealt a tough hand. She’s of marriageable age, but had a traumatic experience before the events of this story that has led to the presumption that she murdered a man, which has tainted her relationship with her mother, forcing her to leave her family home and seek shelter with an older, male teacher at the school. Needless to say, her reputation is very poor, indeed. But Santha carried on with her life, which I could admire. She starts off as a typical young adult, though I did tire of just how often her anger flared up, to the point where I sometimes felt like intervening with anger management strategies, or even just reminding her to mind her elders, though perhaps I’m just from too different of a culture for that to really stick here. Anyways, she changes once the key has its hold on her. It’s subtle, and I liked that she fought it at first. But it definitely turns her, so it became a lot harder to pick who she is a character apart from who she is under the influence of the key. She became rather cold and uncaring about the sacrifices made around her, her quest becoming the all-consuming thing. I enjoyed reading about her transformation, but then I really don’t know who or what she became, so I left the book having no idea who she was.
The other characters around her, though, tended to be much more interesting. There’s a lot of history tied up with some of them as some serve the fae princes and one servant in particular I found to be fascinating. Her love interest, too, was lovely. He seemed like such a happy fellow, even when trouble befell him and I just got this twinkling feeling whenever he looked at Santha. Santha comes across so many interesting humans and fae on her journey and I loved that they all had their own personalities and drives, so it made the world feel rich and full. I did end up finding myself missing the people from her village at one point, and I hope there’s a return to them one day. Santha spends much of the first half there, so I felt like I really got to know them only to be torn away as Santha willingly departs. But my favorite character was Biahnd, Santha’s magical canine companion. Theirs is a thorny relationship from day one, until a point comes where they have to let each other in. Watching them learn and grow together was really a lot of fun, and I really came to care for that dog.
Despite the familiarity of the world, it was still a lot of fun to explore it. There are various terrains, which also were fantastic in that they served as obstacles instead of mere places Santha traveled through. I loved that it grew colder the further north she went, and that her journey took her high and low. The fun part of quest stories is getting to really explore the world, and Beckoning of the Gate really delivered that. It breathed fresh air into something that’s been over done, dropping in diversity and fae who have come to be stuck on this side of a closed gateway. It makes for trouble and danger even while normal people work hard to go about their normal lives. There’s a lot of history to this world, and it was great to get into that and see how it impacted not just the fae, but humans as well, which helps get at the heart of what Santha’s quest is really leading her to.
Beckoning of the Gate, while delivering some fun and interesting elements, was also a bit too much on the obvious and predictable side for me. Or maybe I’ve just read too much fantasy. A lot of it struck me as stereotypical and I could see where it was going a mile away. There wasn’t anything that took me by surprise, but it was all the details that kept things interesting for me even if I was growing more and more frustrated with Santha. As a hero’s journey, I liked that it took Santha away from something familiar and clearly beloved even if the people she’d known all her life were more willing to believe terrible things of her. She grew and changed, but I’m not always sure if it was for the better. The format for a hero’s journey was glaringly obvious, which I wasn’t a fan of, but I grew more intrigued as it morphed into more of a quest story, seemingly starting to shuck off that hero’s journey cloak. I love quests as they always have an end point, either good or bad, and always explore interesting worlds. I really enjoyed this when it opened up the world and started introducing so many fascinating characters.
Beckoning of the Gate is really an interesting fantasy in that it’s full of colorful characters and sweeps across a fascinating world. While the plot was glaringly obvious and far more predictable than I prefer, it was wonderful to feel immersed in this world and start to wonder what might happen in the next book and exactly where all of this is leading. It was just disappointing I wasn’t surprised by anything in this book. Well, except for Santha’s characterization. I was surprised by how cold and uncaring she became the further she went from home. I felt like she held me at a distance and really didn’t want to let me get to know her, which was frustrating because I adore character-driven books. Still, this has a lot of great elements and potential for a much wider story and world.
How many cups of tea will you need?
4 cups of tea
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