The Watcher shattered the Gates.
Now hope must arise from the shards.
Darin and Suriin enter the Black Palace of the So’Dal, at a time when monstrous Edgelands creatures return to the skies over Caldera.
After exhibiting magical traits thought lost, Darin is drawn into a secret society charged with keeping the Watcher’s secrets. Now he must balance learning to control his magic, caring for Star, his new companion, and finding a way to sustain the Howlers’ power for long enough to protect Caldera from the predatory creatures of the Edgelands.
Before she arrived at the Black Palace Suriin broke the ancient rules of the So’Dal to save the life of the person she loves the most. As her search for a cure delves deeper under the mountain, is there any price she won't pay?
On the outer moon of Tebein, Elissa’s newly awakened magic will endanger her home and family. Now she must race to find help for those she leaves behind as she escapes those who want her, and all those like her, dead.
One wrong decision by any of them could return legends to life and end five hundred cycles of peace. Will they find the solutions they need in time?
Gates of Hope is the first book in the new epic fantasy series, Aulirean Gates, by J.E. Hannaford. A character-driven story, with three POVs, set in the Aulirean System, full of mythical creatures, and a world that has suffered a big change and whose fate was altered by decisions taken a big time ago.
As said, we are going to be following three different characters (well, I would say four), different between themselves, but whose stories are somewhat related, even intertwined.
Darin has traveled to the Red Pike, where the Black Palace, a school for magic users, is situated. While he has not sure about the tests and all, being one of the few who bonds with a moonhound, Staramine, makes him apt to practice the magic; starting his formation and with time, getting into the secrets of the Howlers, those that were able to bond with the hounds.
Suriin has also traveled to the Red Pike, but while Darin had a relatively easy journey, Suriin's group gets attacked by a xotryl, hurting her father. From this moment, Suriin will try to learn as much as possible to cure him, entering into contact with forces she cannot comprehend, and that will manipulate them using her hopes against her.
Elissa, the third POV, is really different. While Darin and Suriin POVs' are situated on the planet of Lieus, Elissa is a slave of the awldrin on the moon of Tebein. The link between those two locations was smashed by the Watcher, a powerful dragon, many years ago in order to stop the war between humans and awldrin, trapping humans in Tebein. As her hair is lilac colored, she's able to use magic, but she doesn't understand it until she enters in contact with others that can train her.
With those premises, we will be following the journeys of our four characters (yes, I'm going to count Staramine as one), either physically or metaphorically. And with this in mind, we can see how the worldbuilding made by Hannaford takes the spotlight, becoming the aspect that shines the most.
The magic system is certainly original, with several ways it is manifested, depending also on the sex of the user. We can see how Darin is trained into singing, as the base of his powers; while Suriin's powers are based on emotions; the education at the Black Palace is sex-segregated (in reality, the whole is segregated by sex).
The bond between Star and Darin will be a central point in their plot, and we will see how a trust and friendship relationship is created between both, communicating between themselves via telepathic images, and it's one of the most affecting aspects of the book.
The island of Caldera, where Darin and Suriin subplots are situated, is really well built, with special attention to many aspects related to the flora and fauna of the place. Many creatures and plants are created and well described, creating a really immersive effect.
The pacing is in a good spot, but it certainly feels slow until we get all the details of the worldbuilding. Not really a problem, as Hannaford has done an excellent job creating a world that you want to explore in the meanwhile.
Gates of Hope is an excellent starter, setting the foundations for a big series. If you like worlds that are different, and characters you end up appreciating, I would totally recommend you this book. I'm definitely waiting for the next installment of the Aulirean Gates series!
J E Hannaford is powered by coffee, dragons, and whisky. She teaches Biology in the real world and invents fantasy beasts to populate her own.She lives in Suffolk, UK, and pines for the coast and mountains of Wales.A love of nature and the ocean washes through the pages of J E Hannaford’s stories and pours out of the characters who live in it.
Her debut series is The Black Hind’s Wake Duology.