Hardcover, 335 pages.
Release date: August 5th 2014.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Reviewed by: Arianne.
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 was one of the last books I read in 2014, and it also turned out to be one of my favourites. Thrilling, well-written and packed with detail, it's perfect for fans of City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau or The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. A dystopian-steampunk adventure with its feet firmly planted in fantasy, plus the occasional nod to real-world mythology, it’s a spectacular addition to any YA shelf.
Seventeen-year-old Kai knows that keeping secrets keeps her safe. In a world still recovering from the after-effects of a devastating, long-ago war, trust is hard to come by — so when her beloved older brother Reev vanishes, Kai risks everything to find him, including her life. Enemies abound in this epic tale of love and loyalty, from the monstrous gargoyles who lurk outside the city’s walls to the infamous rebel known as The Black Rider, but for Kai, who can control the threads of time, danger may be much closer to home than she thinks.
Kai is a fantastic heroine. She’s brave and resolute. She learns fast and she puts her whole heart into everything she does. Even more than that, she is seriously skilled, and she’s not afraid to do the impossible if it means she’ll get her loved ones back. The closeness Kai shares with her older brother Reev is at the very core of the novel, but neither of them is perfect and revelations from the past threaten to destroy everything they’ve worked to build since Reev rescued her on a riverbank all those years ago.
I adored Kai’s romance with gorgeous, tough love interest Avan, too. It’s passionate and enthralling, but rooted deeply in friendship and camaraderie; it’s a breath of fresh air. Kai and Avan go to extraordinary lengths to protect one another and that involves a lot of sacrifice for both of them; it’s such an emotional part of the book, you feel as if you’re with them, every step of the way.
The most surprising thing for me about this book, however, was how real the characters felt. Gates of Thread and Stone deals with some big themes, but there’s something so refreshing about the way Lori allows her characters to be human and flawed and funny; I loved that.
I definitely found myself wishing the book was a little longer — though this can only mean I’m more excited than ever to read its sequel, The Infinite! Kai’s ability to control time doesn't play as big a role as you'd expect and sometimes it feels as if the book is running on two very separate tracks — the competing elements of traditional ‘mahjo’ magic and Kai’s seemingly unrelated gifts are never truly reconciled. The book’s setting jumps from place to place; Kai and Avan are constantly rushing back and forth, whether that’s from his family’s shop to the Labyrinth or from the White Court to the decadent (and decaying) Etu Gahl, so here’s hoping we get more detail on each location in the next book.
The plot, however, is near flawless. It twists and turns right to the last page. I definitely saw some of it coming, but then again I had theories that were proved totally wrong – it’s the kind of book that really keeps you on your toes. The ending is particularly brilliant; it leaves questions unanswered yet is a hugely satisfying read.
In short: Gates of Thread and Stone proves that sometimes a book really is worth the hype. Featuring a dizzyingly diverse and complex main cast, the book’s world building is incredibly distinctive and full of flair. The writing is exquisite; it’s stylish but reliable, intense but whip-smart. Lori M. Lee is destined for great things, and Gates of Thread and Stone is just one of them.