Saturday, June 12, 2010

Review: Gateway

By Sharon Shinn
Publication date: October 15, 2009

My review:

Daiyu steps through the Gateway Arch in modern day St. Louis and finds herself in the parallel world of Jia where Chinese people (called Han) rule the country. Daiyu doesn't know what to do but thankfully she quickly makes a new friend, Kalen. He finds her a place to stay with two very unusual people, Aurora and Ombri. Ombri tells her that she has been brought there for a particular purpose-to send an evil Han politician, Chenglei, back to the world he is from before he gains complete control. Since she is Chinese herself, she can gain access to Chenglei's inner circle by posing as a debutante. Daiyu reluctantly agrees to help but this means learning to fit in with the upperclass Han society. While she learns social niceties, Daiyu develops feelings for Kalen. Unfortunately once she accomplishes her mission, she will go back to St. Louis where she won't be able to remember any of it-including Kalen.

The premise that there are many different iterations of the world is very interesting and I really liked the twist of having Chinese people be the majority instead of a minority group. The city of Shenglang, Jia's equivalent of St. Louis is described in intricate detail with its social classes, culture, and customs. One of my favorite places mentioned was the aviary where Daiyu would secretly meet with Kalen. The bright red birds and flowers sounded truly beautiful. I like how Sharon Shinn depicted life for the different social classes, particularly how the poor were forced to panhandle for valuable stones in the riverbed. While I liked Daiyu I sometimes found her to be irritating especially when she interacted with Chenglei. I also had difficulty buying into her romance with Kalen. It developed suddenly before she had even spent much time in his company. Daiyu was a little too naive and trusting at times. I liked the character of Kalen more. He challenged Daiyu to think for herself and showed her the truth about Chenglei. One of my favorite characters was actually the villain Chenglei. He was truly evil although he could appear to be charming, helpful, and caring when he wanted to. He had a gift of persuasion. I felt like there was a lot more to his character and his ability to move people to listen to him but unfortunately that wasn't explored.

Gateway was a promising fantasy but unfortunately the main character fell flat for me. I was disappointed a little bit with how things ended. I believe this is a stand alone novel but the ending leaves room for a sequel. While I was somewhat disappointed with Gateway I still thought it had a good message and interesting world building. The exploration of racism, political power, and social class made this a worthwhile read in spite of the flaws. I definitely plan to try some of Sharon Shinn's other fantasy novels.

Readalikes: The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry, Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, Wildwood Dancing  and Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier


  1. You are invited to add a link to your review to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon
    ( ). The Saturday Review happens every week, and it's a great place to find links to other bloggers' reviews.

  2. Eek, I don't read books where I don't like the main characters. *sigh* Great review though, and, who knows, I still may check out Sharon Shinn's works. :)


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