Here is my review for The Traveller's Gate by Will Wight
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The Traveler’s Gate trilogy is the first series by the author Will Wight. He is now most commonly known for his Cradle series. I came into this series having just finished the latest Cradle book, Reaper. I enjoy his style of writing, it is often straightforward, but effective. Cradle and The Traveler’s Gate share qualities that make it feel like you’re reading the offspring of modern fantasy and some sort of anime. From the modern fantasy, you get connected worlds and deep characters, and from anime, you get parts of the story that feel over the top in a fun sort of way.
I will initialy avoid spoilers, but each section will most likely contain more, so be warned.
Wow Factor: 5/5
The characters in The Traveller's Gate are varied and interesting. The three main point of view characters, Simon, Leah, and Alin all come from the same small village, Myria, but they each have unique backgrounds that lead into who they are and the stories they lead very well.
Simon, the main character, loses his father and essentially loses his mother to an attack early in the first book and is left with nothing but a promise; to return and receive training from the man that saved his life. He starts with nothing and has to earn power and status by his own merit. This plays a large part of who Simon is. He can oftern come accross as disgruntles, but he always is willing to do the right thing.
This is contrasted well by Alin, another boy from the village of Myria, is well liked by everyone and is known to speak like a storyteller. He is gifted his powers early on and is heralded as the chosen one. Alin's feelings surrounding being the chosen one plays a big part in his character arc throughout the books.
Leah strikes the middle ground between Simon and Alin. She has some power that is earned, some that is inherited, and her morals come off as the most grey of the three. She comes off as cool and collected and we as the readers benefit by peering into her thoughts as she is put in strenuous situations.
Each of the characters lends an interesting viewpoint on the world and on the events happening in the book. Each have unique skillsets, which I appreceiate, and they each feel very fleshed out as characters.
The characters section gets a four out of five because of the supporting characters. While I liked each of them, with many feeling distinct and fleshed out, some characters felt like copy and pasted characters from other stories.
For example, a woman called Grandmaster Naraka, an extremely old woman that may or may not be blind, who is really, really into justice, felt like a copy and paste of other mean old lady types. I liked her character and she played her part in the story well, but she left me with the sense that I had seen her somewhere before, and not in a good way.
Another example would be King Zakareth, who is a great, evil king type, but again falls into the trap of perhaps being too good at the whole evil king deal. You could swap him for Fire Lord Ozai or Galbatorix and it would feel about the same. He did have a moment near the end of The Crimson Vault that felt unique and distinct, but he suffers the fate of generic evilish king in House of Blades and The City of Light.
Overall, the characters are great and play their parts well, but some of the supporting cast feels a bit cookie cutter.
Since I ended the last section with my issues, I'll get it out of the way first here. The story suffers from small pivots between books. Some examples of this are the hanging trees and the incarnations. The way the hanging trees are portrayed, and later how the incarnations are portrayed feels different. It made me wonder if the plan for these story concepts was originally different than what they ended up being. The way these major plot devices are portrayed feels slightly different per book, which was a bit jarring.
Overall though, I loved the story. Will Wight did a wonderful job combining the percpectives of Simon, Leah, and Alin, each of whom have different experience and opinions to pull on to make the story feel different each time the perspective switches.
The otherwordly elements are closely tied with the main plot. They are crucial to the world around them, and because of this are crucial to the story.
This is not a story of black and white. The faction may seem to be the bad guys becomes the good guys, and vice versa. The characters all have their own agenda, and this doesn't always correlate with their faction or a simple good or bad.
Overall I enjoy the story. The characters are interesting, the magic is interesting, which makes up for the lack of worldbuilding.
This is where the series is the weakest in my opinion. The territories, the places where magic comes from, are well fleshed out and interesting, but the world where most of the story takes place is not. We are not given a map of the world until the last book, The City of Light, and even then, all we get is a vaguely ovular shape with some mountains in the corners with some city names. In the book, we know about the country of Damasca, the villages on its outskirts, and the city-state of Enosh. Enosh and Damasca don't like each other due to the hanging trees Damasca employs to keep elemental forces at bay, but which must receive nine human sacrifices annually. The villages in between these two powers simply don't want to get involved in this struggle.
The world works for the story, but that's about all it does. You don't feel immersed in the world, each location feels like a theater backdrop for the story that is going on. Keep in mind, that story is good enough to where the lack of worldbuilding may not bother some readers, but it really got to me by the third book. I think there was an attempt to show there is more to this world with some mention of western isles in the third book, but it comes off feeling like a band aid fix to a larger problem.
For a story that takes place on a smaller scale such as this, I would expect greater details about the world around the characters. I never got a great feel for what the world looked like, or what the people look like. This may not be a problem for everyone, but for me, it made it hard to picture. For example, the details about the appearance of the characters are sparse.
We are told Damascans can have blue eyes and blonde hair, yet the city names seem inspired by the middle east, such ass the city of Bel Cana. This makes me think the Damascan people would look similar to people from the middle east, yet the only details we have are blue eyes and blonde hair. It leaves a confusing picture to me. This is true for the villages as well. We are told they have darker skin than the Damascans, but what does this really mean? Do the villagers appear Black? Are they similar in appearance to the Damascans, but more tan? We never really know. Regarding the people of Enosh, we are given no details. Overall, I found the worldbuilding lackluster, but sufficent to get the story accross. Seeing as this was Will Wight's first series, that may be expected more or less, and his worldbuiling does improve in his later series.
I loved the magic system in The Traveler's Gate series. It was interesting, unique, and satisfying. I have to wonder if the world lacks details because the author put all of his creative resources into creating the Territories, the sources of magic. Each is distinct but understandable. Some examples of territories are Naraka, Ragnarus, Elysia, and Valinhall. These four territories are used the most in the story. Each has a theme, such as justice, power at a price, virtues, and combat. Naraka is a firey landscape, similar to popular depictions of Hell. Fireballs, assassin lizards, and large judgemental men are all things travellers of Naraka have in their arsenal, if they have been earned. From Ragnarus, a traveler can pull weapons of great power, each with a unique price, weather it be heat from the surrounding area, ageing, losing the ability to speak, or great personal pain. Elysia is all about virtues, and embodying a virtue allows a traveller of Elysia to call on a correlating set of powers. Valinhall, the territory of our main character Simon, is a large house floating in a void. The travellers there are put through training and tests, earning various powers as they go.
Each territory feels so distinct. Enough information is given, and enough is left obscure, to make each territory feel beleivable. This is the same for the process of incarnation, when a traveller takes in too much power and becomes an embodyment of their territory. These monsters are some of the main baddies in the second half of the series. Each of these represents their territory well and further the beleivability of the magic.
I really have nothing bad to say. The magic is interesting and distinct. It feels satisfying and earned. There are consequences for misuse or too much use of a power. There is conflict between the different travellers that feels beleivable. This system is well done.
Overall, I was wowed by the book. The pacing was good. The way that Will Wight writes can be humorous at times, but it never feels like too much. An example is that as part of Simon's powers from Valinhall, he has an advisor, which for him is a wooden doll. It's a weird aspect, but it works, and serves to break the tension up at times. Will Wight does a good job with twisting your expectations, so you don't really know who to root for. You never are really sure who the bad guy is, it keeps you guessing in the best ways. Each character is interesting, and they are written to where I care about them and their problems. Some aspects of the story are ridiculous. The main point that comes to mind is that Simon uses a sword that is six or seven feet long. This is explained with his power set, and it is done in a way where it is ridiculous, but believable, which contributes to the wow factor for me. This book impressed me with its interesting magic, beleivable characters, and a plot that keeps you guessing.
Overall Score: 21/25
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