Recently I’ve been reading novels by newer, largely unknown indie writers. By way of helping them along, I’ll be introducing some of them here. These authors are up-and-coming, at varying stages in their development as writers. They may not all have the polish of traditionally published authors, but I think they all have potential and deserve encouragement.
Born on the eve of a war that all but destroyed his kindred, the Shadow Clan, Ki is raised by the surviving elders. His whole life has been spent in training for just one purpose: to kill forty-two sinful people and collect into himself their souls, thus releasing them from their evil and becoming the savior of his race. Mission nearly accomplished, he discovers that his last two targets have committed no sin. One is a child too young to bear any guilt. The other is Elisabeth, a brilliant young “fringe sciences” researcher who harbors a terrible secret: she is half human, half demon. But she has suppressed her darker side and remained pure, so Ki cannot kill her. Yet.
Still stranger things are afoot. In a realm of planets joined to each other, to the Netherworld, and to the magical Divine Court itself by five Gates, dark forces have been awakened. People’s spirit animals are vanishing. Whole families are committing suicide without reason. Dangerous creatures from the Netherworld are breaking through to the planets, attacking and abducting whoever they find. For reasons she does not comprehend, Elisabeth alone holds the key to understanding these strange events, but she needs Ki’s help. Would-be killer and would-be victim must form an uneasy alliance to halt the spreading darkness. In the end, they will learn that neither of them are what they once had thought.
The Sixth Gate is the first volume in a planned trilogy (The Gate Trilogy). K. T. Munson has spun a complex, intriguing fantasy world filled with creatures of light and darkness. The story pulled me in from the start and kept me going, although I found it a bit easier to set aside in the middle than I did at the beginning and the end. The ending more than rewarded the effort, though. Pity I can’t tell you about it without giving away too many things! The characters were in the main well-defined, although I didn’t quite get the level of evil vibes I would have expected from the principal villain. The settings were quite good, particularly the look and feel of the Netherworld. I could well imagine myself slinking through its shadows, hoping to remain unseen. Overall, I’d put the story elements at a solid 4.5 stars.
I found the writing a bit uneven, though. Some parts were quite good, especially in the earlier chapters, while other could use a fair bit of tightening. In particular, some of the dialogue and intense action scenes could use some help. However, these are issues most indie writers face in their earlier works, and I found the text readable enough to give the writing 3 stars. Overall, then, I feel justified in granting 4 stars to this novel. I look forward to book 2, The Nowhere Gate, being even better.
I recently asked K. T. Munson about the novel and her writing. Here’s what she said:
The world of “The Sixth Gate” is quite complex and vibrant. Where did it all come from?
Equal parts research and my brain! In my mind my characters are alive on these complex worlds and I’m simply writing down their lives. However, I only get snapshots in dreams and the like, so I have to fill in the pieces—hence the research.
I found the relationship between Ki and Elisabeth intriguing. He is out to kill her and she knows it, yet they must work together to combat the growing darkness. On top of this, they both carry a lot of that darkness within them. Could you comment on how all that plays into their relationship?
You’ve touched on one of the very important central themes to the book and series as whole: We are all born with the capacity for cruelty and for goodness. In a way I wanted to show that two people who are very similar in their inner struggles and circumstances took two different paths because of their environment. We are shaped by the conditions of our birth, but they do not have to define us.
Without giving too much away, a point of clarification I’d like to make here is Ki wants to save Elisabeth by freeing her soul. He thinks of himself as a savior and doesn’t really consider his ‘darkness’ to be dark. It isn’t until Elisabeth becomes his mirror that he starts to question everything about his mission and by extension his ‘truths.’ In turn Ki is Elisabeth’s catalyst to help her come to terms with who and what she is. However, the acceptance of her demonic half is down to her in the end.
There are a lot of mythological creatures as well as (it seems) creatures of your own making. How much did preexisting mythology enter into your world-building?
Great question! It isn’t explored as much here, but many of the creatures throughout the series are either my own creation or borrowed from mythology for very deliberate reasons. I did use mythologies from across the world and through time, more so in Morhaven which you’ll see more of in the next two books.
However, I borrowed from existing or historical societies as a loose foundation on each planet and then built up around them my own flourish of cultures, belief systems, and social structures to create each unique planet. It was a lot of work to build 6+ unique planets, and there is so much more on each planet that isn’t explored because it isn’t relevant to Ki and Elisabeth’s story. Thankfully I love world-building, so even though it took time, it was a lot of fun!
This is book 1 of a planned trilogy. What can you tell us about the next book?
Thankfully, I’ve already written the next two books. I’m happy to report that because there has been so much positive feedback I’ve been working like a madwoman to get the second book ready for publication later this year, rather than next year. For the next book you’ll want to hold onto your seat because you’re in for a wild ride!
The second book, The Nowhere Gate, starts off with Ki completely without memories or a body on an unknown planet. Meanwhile, Elisabeth’s search for Ki takes her and Nanette to Morhaven where Elisabeth must face new perils, from creatures to the cunning Det Mor Clan. It is under the pretense that Nanette serve her month with Ethandirill in the Netherworld.
What advice to you have for readers or writers?
For fellow writers, keep writing. Let your stories be told. For readers, bless you! Novelists like myself need readers like you who are searching to be transported to other worlds.
Where can readers find you?