It was a myth well known to anyone in Tireol that the enchanted forests hid the gates of heaven created by gods. The gods used the gates to travel between various realms to observe and guide the life force that they helped create. (Loc. 165-166)
I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book so I could give an honest review.
Gates of Heaven is the first installment in this high fantasy series written by Pamita Rao. On Planet Myrth, King Creed reigns over the entire land, but his thirst for power didn’t quench with the vast territory he already owns; he also wants to conquer other realms beyond Myrth. To make his greedy wish come true, he needs to pass through the gates of heaven, which are located somewhere in the enchanted forests, but they reveal themselves only to enlightened people.
Though Creed learned to use dark magic from the sages while he was exiled by his father, King Balthasar, he has never found the magic gates like the former king did many years ago. When Queen Elora gives birth to a son, Creed’s trusted sage’s prediction comes true. Neelahaim will possess more powers than his father and he will be able to pass through the gates to unknown lands. What would a twisted totalitarian ruler like Creed do to make sure that he will not let the opportunity to go through the gates of heaven slip through his fingers? Plot to kill his newborn son, of course, by performing a dangerous ritual through which his son’s powers would be transferred to him!
However, the queen senses what Creed is up to, so she has a plan of her own, meant to keep him safe with the help of her estranged family. Here’s where Alaira and Horace (Elora’s sister and brother) step into the picture; they are as skillful and intelligent as the queen herself, but they are more like tricksters. There’s also Freddic and Klink who help their friends not only to get into the castle, but also to return safely to Nimah.
Creed, the King of Tireol, is the main villain of this story even if most of the time he seems evil without reason. An explanation would be his belief that King Balthasar loved his subjects more than him. I said before that Creed is a tyrant, a greedy person who uses his power and dark magic to get what he wants without caring if he causes suffering or destruction around him, and for some strange reason I compared him with Emperor Nero, because they were both cruel and selfish.
In contrast, Queen Elora is a skilled warrior and an intelligent woman, but she accepts to marry Creed in order to keep her family safe. Even if she doesn’t love the King, she has strong motherly feelings towards her son, for whom she risks and sacrifices everything including her freedom. Though Elora wasn’t able to see her family again after marrying Creed, she can’t ask anyone but her dear sister to protect and take care of her child.
As for Alaira, I don’t have a lot to say, though she’s the protagonist of the story. She is brave like her elder sister, skilled in the arts of swordsmanship and archery, a true trickster, but a girl with strong family bonds and a soft heart for her father (Reddan), siblings and her nephew. She promises to protect the child even if it means risking her life to let him live.
The plot follows different character, that’s why we have multiple points of view: Freddic (Alaira’s friend and love interest), Creed (King of Tireol), Queen Elora, Alaira, Horace etc. The pacing is fast, the story was very visual, but there were some weird word choices especially in the first half of the book, which made it difficult for me to focus on the story. Here are a few examples just to give you an idea: “she sensed darkness in him” (Loc. 372), “You do not deserve to rule this throne” (Loc. 553), “she turned her to him” (Loc. 564), “to sneak the prince from under the king’s nose” (Loc. 652). The main themes of the story are: good vs. evil, love for one’s family, courage, devotion, and the sense of belonging to a community.
Now let’s talk about world-building. On Planet Myrth, which initially made me think of a science-fiction setting, we have Tireol, Taelk, Griesmal, Nimah. People work in small but loving communities, they trade goods with the aristocrats for protection (as Freddic’s family did). In this world there are also slaves and servants, who are beaten by the guards and noblemen, there are sages like Drahim, and magical creatures like trolls and Ghimish. There are myths, pretty vague beliefs in gods, history of Tireol (the story about Balthasar), and some politics essential to every fantasy novel. Even though the book can be read like a fairytale, it has mature content such as macabre or death scenes which are not suitable for younger readers.
To wrap it up, I hope that my review stirred your interest in reading Gates of Heaven. It was a pretty interesting book for me, though there were some things I didn’t understand or resonate with, but if you’re a fan of high fantasy, give it a chance.
by Alina Andreea Cătărău