Friday, April 24, 2009

The Gatekeepers

Normally I wouldn't recommend ending a story with the words, "To be continued." But when the story weaver is Anthony Horowiz then I throw my hands up in the air. I can only hope that my library has the 4th book of the series on CD, or I'm in trouble.

I am generally not a fan of epic fantasies, but I am inexorably hooked on The Gatekeepers that should capture the attention of any middle schooler -- boys particularly. Horowitz masterfully interweaves the lives of five 14-year-olds (four boys and one girl--thus the draw for male readers) who have been chosen to save the world from the "Old Ones." These are powerful evil forces that "feed on human misery" as Scar, the female character relates.

Each of "The Five", as the young adults are referred to in the books, have paranormal powers. An intrinsic part of each book is how the characters come to grips with his or her powers and learns how to use them in this colossal struggle of good vs. evil. There is a great deal of leaving one part of the world and ending up on the other side of the globe, but for the most part, Horowitz has prepared the reader to successfully suspend disbelief and the ways in which the characters end up connecting with one another is convincing.

Horowitz is a masterful storyteller and suspense is hardly a big enough word to describe the predicaments which the characters face. Each main character is always facing imminent danger but the author "somehow" (a word he uses a lot) safely brings him through. These are great books for the writer-to-be to study and see how the author is constantly "upping the ante" through physical danger, time running out, or impossibly close calls. And talk about cliff hangers! The ending of each book entices the reader to go to the next.

Although I have obviously enjoyed these three books, I felt as if the detour in the third book into a time 10,000 years ago and the introduction of characters who mirrored "The Five" was a bit of a stretch. If I could discuss the books with Horowitz, more then once I would have said to him, "Is this really necessary?" But although it seemed long and drawn out, afterwards I understood how Horowitz used this detour to add another dimension to the saga.

Christians who read the books can have some interesting dicussions on the religous themes that run throughout all of them. There is a strong message of "this is what was meant to be" which Calvinists call "predestination." In the same way, there is also a theme of sacrifice as the characters consider that they might have to give up their lives to save the world. On the other hand, some Christian parents might be uncomfortable with the characters' paranormal abilities.

Overall, I highly recommend the books for adventure, descriptive writing, and a story that hooks the reader's imagination. But I'm in trouble. Book 4, Necropolis, isn't even at my library yet and there are 18 people ahead of me waiting to read it! To be continued....
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