Note: This review is part of the 2016 Summer Reading Diversity Spotlight.
Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Sci-fi Fantasy
Source: Received From Publisher
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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.
Gates of Thread and Stone is a wonderful debut from Lori M. Lee that got plenty of buzz leading up to its release in 2014 and now I see why.
In reading the synopsis, I was sold at “she can manipulate the threads of time.” Seeing that executed though? Everything I hoped it would be and more. I loved Lee’s writing as the main character, Kai literally held and weaved timed with her hands. Such power so beautifully displayed. I really enjoyed this elements in the story and really, really appreciated the fact that this is a main character with a phenomenal power that she’s not so skilled at using. That was refreshing. Even by the end of the book, she’s still not a master of her power. She’s still got plenty to learn and handle. And that’s okay.
The fantastical elements aside, I loved following Kai on her journey and not only connected with her but with the people that she interacted with as well. Reev, her “brother” is selfless at his core and seeing how that quality becomes his greatest strength and weakness was something else! He definitely kept me on my toes throughout the whole story especially given his disappearance.
Then there’s Avan, Kai’s best and only friend. He’s so loyal and filled with so much gratitude and seeing these played out as his greatest strengths and weaknesses was even more exciting since he goes on Kai’s journey with her and has decisions of his own to make. With an abusive father back home, he has nothing to lose by joining Kai on this journey and if you think that he’s a much more attentive and competent sidekick than even Kai is as the lead, just wait until you get to the ending.
Avan’s sexuality is fluid so LGBT representation for the win and yay for Kai accepting Avan and crushing on Avan before (and after) this was even established. The crushing on part does steadily build to a romance which I loved. A tear or two even welled up by the end of this book, romance wise. That, coming from a non-romantic should say something.
I really enjoyed exploring through these characters and relationships the safety we find in other people and the ideas of what we trust that other people can provide. I enjoyed exploring what it means to push forward through fear, not look back, do whatever we can for the people we love, and stand firm in our own beliefs to fight for what we love about our own being. Through strength and smarts, manipulation, secrets, big sacrifices, and more, we see what people are willing to do to fight for love and life. Even when the memories of their past eludes them. Human resilience is a powerful thing and that’s wonderfully displayed here in this story with these characters.
Yes, I admit, I did skip over some info dump here and there that I probably should have paid attention to. Sometimes, it simply was too overwhelming, as were the many minor and even mention of super minor characters. Definitely too many characters. I also may have skipped over some training and action bits in the middle. Usually, I like training scenes but it just didn’t click here for me.
But overall, this was great. Gates of Thread and Stone has enough pieces of a dystopian puzzle for you to get a good picture of the world but just when you think you have a full view of it all, fantasy sweeps over this story and puts its own magical spin on things which I really enjoyed. This was familiar yet refreshing and a fairly quick read so if this sounds like something you’re on board to read or it’s one you’ve been meaning to get to, I’d say dive right in.
Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee is available today.