Beyond the Fifth Gate
by Donna Sundblad
About the Book:
Twelve-year-old Elita is taken captive by an insectoid race and forced into slave labor. For twelve years, she lives in a hive complex where humans are forbidden to speak, write, or read. The promise of freedom swells when the prophetic conjunction of five planets marks the long-awaited Kamali's Cycle. But first, as the Chosen, she must travel through five mystical gates during the planets' conjunction and return to Haldis with items key to that freedom. Elita follows Kamali's light into a cave in the eastern foothills. The portal closes behind her, and the first gate opens to a one way quest into strange worlds and a race to collect what she needs from beyond each gate to free her people before time runs out. How will she know what to take from world to world?
When Donna told me this was a YA book, I must admit I had a few negative expectations. Now not all authors do this, of course, but some YA fiction is not actually geared to "Young Adults" as the moniker would suggest, but rather to teeny-boppers, or in some cases, seemingly, to morons. Not so with Beyond the Fifth Gate. I was pleasantly surprised to find a well-developed vocabulary and a mature, well-planned plot. The author doesn't "talk down" or oversimplify concepts, something which had to be a great temptation when dealing with complicated issues like slavery and organized rebellion. Make no mistake, Ms. Sundblad fully recognizes the complex nature of her subject matter and she doesn't trivialize it for the sake of her story.
Beyond the Fifth Gate has a strong female main character who reminded me of Xena without the long hair or possibly Seven-of-Nine without the spandex. Elita starts off a little weak in her fighting skills (but realistically, how hard would it be to practice when you live in a hive and are guarded day and night by big bugs?) but her first mystical gate provides two teachers who not only give her a crash course, but join her on her quest to freedom. There are plenty of plot twists along the way and the ending is a real shocker which truly caught me off guard just when I thought I had it all figured out.
The book was a quick read which took me only three sittings over the course of less than 48 hours. The plot was well-paced and didn't have any slow or boring spots that I could identify. I think anyone who can read at the high school level and enjoys quest fantasy with a strong female lead would enjoy this book.
Visit Donna's website, The Inkslinger.
Purchase at Lulu and Fictionwise.