Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott (Crossroads, Book 1)

A democracy known for peaceful governance by reeves riding giant eagles falls into chaos and possible civil war when the reeves of the north stop responding and a military captain fleeing his murderous brother lands right in the middle of it; meanwhile, a slave sells an eerie, ghost-like girl into prostitution in order to free his sister, who, as a temple prostitute called a Devouring girl, has a few tricks up her sleeve as well as a personal stake in the larger story.

I hate synopsizing epic stories like this. I’m always more attracted to these books by reading a chapter excerpt. I really enjoyed Spirit Gate, which had a richly realized world and truly compelling characters. Kate Elliott has come up with systems of governance and theologies that fuel the story in really dramatic ways.

The characters really pulled me in. All of them have shades and nuances, not to mention personalities. I especially loved Mai, a market girl from an oppressed land who has learned to hide her emotions. She’s a skilled negotiator with a surprisingly soft heart, wise to many of the ways of the world but an innocent in many others. The other women were quite fascinating, too, and none of them felt like stereotypes, even Zubaidit, who could’ve been just a sexbomb.

I’ve already started Book 2 and am already stoked to see the surprising return of the first character who pulled me in. This is going to be good!

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