Author: Lori M Lee
Series: Gates of Thread and Stone, Book One
Published Date: 5 August 2014
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia
In the Labyrinth, we had a saying: keep silent, keep still, keep safe.
In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.
Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power. (summary from Goodreads)
Gates of Thread and Stone is an entertaining enough book but it does not live up to the exciting promise of its summary, unfortunately.
Lee comes out swinging with her world building and intriguing characters. Her descriptions of Ninurta and its varied communities and classes, as it were, capture the imagination. I was immediately enthralled, hooked on the potential this story had in terms of fantasy, magic and revolution. There were even elements of Steampunk with its mechanical beasts, known as Grays. Kai appears level headed and strong, and her power awe inspiring. Right away you're invested in her relationship with her brother, Reev, truly relating to her feelings of worry and protectiveness for their well being. Her relationship with Avan too seems cute and fun, based on friendship. When Reev goes missing and Kai breaches the walls of Ninurta, the desperation and suspense builds, and certain mysteries - what Reev's tattoo means, why the sentinel has the same, who the Black Rider is, what the Gargoyles are - add to this. For a third of the book, Lee has a real winner. But unfortunately the whole story loses momentum quickly.
Lee still has some great world building, what with the lands outside Ninurta and the Void, home to the Rider. But it is simply not enough when the plot stagnates and the characters lose their likeability. Kai's search for her brother plods along in a way that is underwhelming. Too early it's revealed what is truly going on within Ninurta and to Reev, so the surprises are few and far between. Kai simply not believing what she's told, only to discover that it is the truth, does not make for a shocking twist. It only makes her oblivious. An actual twist, when it comes at the end, feels rushed. Which is a real shame. It's intriguing and offers a new mythological element to the story, but overall feels underdeveloped. The answers it provides have a 'that's it??' effect rather than wowing. And the revolution? Yeah. What revolution? I was most disappointed with Kai. Where earlier she seems so strong, she becomes utterly frustrating. Her powers are practically nonexistent, she never thinks things through and spends so much time fawning internally over Avan that it borders on silly. And it does Avan no favours. I believe Avan could have been more fleshed out. It felt like something was missing, and the revelations at the end felt too little too late. I think I might've enjoyed it more if the story alternated between Kai and Avan's points of view, to be honest. It does not bode well that I like Mason, an ex-sentinel working for the Rider, more than Avan. Mason at least had me grinning. He's a bright spark in the otherwise unexciting last half of the book.
Gates of Thread and Stone does have many interesting elements that will entertain, though they're slightly overshadowed by a dreary plot development. Book two, The Infinite, could go either way as it stands. I'm at least willing to find out.