The Death Gate Cycle Series Review

I had fully intended to write reviews for all seven books of the Death Gate Cycle series. However, I soon got to a point where I didn’t really know what to say anymore and I just wanted to get through the books and finish the series.

So, overall, what did I think of this series? Well, for starters, the world building was a amazing. Each of the four worlds is very unique, each with their own beauty and dangers.

After the first book, some things were a bit predictable. It was fairly clear that Haplo would be visiting each of the four worlds and that each visit would take place within a single book. What happened after that was much less predictable.

Haplo changes significantly as a character. In the beginning, his loyalty to his lord and his lord’s cause is unwavering. He cares nothing for the people of the world’s he visits. He simply goes there to complete his mission. It isn’t long, though, before Haplo begins to change. The more time he spends around the various people of the different world’s and especially around the bumbling Alfred, he begins to see that his lord may not be the perfect ruler for all the worlds.

Other characters through out the series are interesting as well. Just don’t get too attached as they often have a tendency to die quite suddenly. Although, not every one stays dead.

I liked that the characters from the first four books made reappearances in later volumes. It may them feel more part of the story as a whole as opposed to just filler characters thrown in to serve Haplo’s journey.

I thought the magic system of the Sartans and Patryns was an interesting one. Rune magic isn’t an uncommon thing in fantasy but they way it was used here was less common. Each of the two races has their own set of runes, which the other race cannot use. The runes being tattooed on the skin of the Patryns was pretty cool in my opinion. Their race has existed in a horrid place, the Labyrinth, for centuries and they’ve found a way to help protect themselves and give warning of near by danger without having to actively use their magic.

My biggest dislike in this series is the references back to our modern world. I said this in a previous review that doing that in fantasy always annoys me. I read fantasy novels because I want to escape into an entirely new and different world that came from the author’s imagination. I feel like making that fantasy world into some distant future of our own world is just lazy and unnecessary. I’m sure there are times when it is done well, but I have yet to come across one.

Overall, this series is a solid 4 out of 5 stars. I highly recommend it to any and all lovers of fantasy. I think this would be a good series for someone who is looking to dip their toe into the genre for the first time.

Thanks for reading!

Fantasy Book Review – Serpent Mage – The Death Gate Cycle #4

Synopsis (from Goodreads): In the fourth volume of this epic fantasy, Haplo must outwit lethal and magical serpents in the last of the Four Realms.

Well, that’s not much of a synopsis. Thanks Goodreads.

This review may contain spoilers for the previous three books

At the end of Fire Sea, Haplo allowed Alfred to escape before reporting back to his Lord. A fact which the Lord of the Nexus was aware of and couldn’t allow to go unpunished. Haplo is, of course, punished for allowing a Sartan to go free, and the dog disappears.

Alfred and Haplo are now on the 4th world, the world of water, Chelestra. They did not go there together, but separately. Haplo comes upon the “mensch” races, as they are known and Alfred finds his own people, newly awakened from a long sleep.

At first, Serpent Mage doesn’t seem all that different from the first three books of the series. Haplo is continuing his mission for his lord. He ingratiates himself with the Elves, Dwarves and Humans on this world, trying to incite them to war against the Sartans. Haplo knows what he should do, but his adventures across the three other worlds and his interactions with people other than his own have changed him (even if he doesn’t want to admit it).

I generally try not to do this but ***SPOILER ALERT – SPOILERS AHEAD***

Back in my review of Elven Star, you may recall that I noted that a character made several reference to the modern world. Well, much to my annoyance, it is revealed that the world the Sartans sundered was, in fact, Earth. Why? Why? The whole point of fantasy novels is that they are FANTASY! The world and all the things in it are supposed to come from the author’s imagination. Linking it back to the real world is so unnecessary, and frankly, annoying. It just feels like a cop out. Like, oh, by the way, this was actually our world all along. hahaha tricked you! No! It’s stupid and unnecessary. Stop it!


I’m very interested to see where things are going for Haplo and Alfred. Not to mention the mystery of the dog. That is still driving me crazy.

My rating for Serpent Mage is 3 out of 5 stars. The series continues to be good but it’s not like “wow, amazing!”

As always, thanks for reading!

Fantasy Book Review – Fire Sea – The Death Gate Cycle #3

Synopsis (from Goodreads) : Abarrach, the Realm of stone. Here, on a barren world of underground caverns built around a core of molten lava, the lesser races — humans, elves, and dwarves — seem to have all died off. Here, too, what may well be the last remnants of the once powerful Sartan still struggle to survive. For Haplo and Alfred — enemies by heritage, traveling companions by necessity — Abarrach may reveal more than either dares to discover about the history of Sartan… and the future of all their descendants.”

This is probably going to be a fairly short review. I don’t have a lot to say about this novel. I don’t mean that in a bad way.

The story continues with Haplo and his dog moving on to the 3rd world to continue his mission for the Lord of the Nexus. Alfred has returned from the first book to play a fairly large role in this one.

We get to learn a little more about the pasts of both Haplo and Alfred, giving more depth to their characters. The dog continues to remain a mystery. One I hope will be revealed in the next novel.

I continue to enjoy this series. The pace has picked up since the first novel, giving more urgency to the events of the story. I had found the first book to be lacking that a bit.

Though I continue to enjoy these books, I would not say they are amazing. I will finish the series and likely enjoy those as well.

My rating for Fire Sea is 3 out of 5 stars.

Elven Star – The Death Gate Cycle #2 – Review

Synopsis (from Goodreads): On steamy Pryan, never-ending sunlight and plentiful rain have created a jungle so vast that humans and elves dwell high in the trees and only dwarves live anywhere near the ground. From the treetops the aristocratic elves sell weapons to the other races, whose incessant warfare sends a steady steam of profits and essential resources skyward. Now, generations of dissent and race hatred will not heal — not even under the threat of annihilation at the hands of legendary Titans. Armed with little more than their wits and prophecy, an elf, a human, and a dwarf must unite to try to save the world from destruction.

At first this book doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with the previous book, Dragon Wing. The setting is on a completely different world and we’re introduced to a whole new set of characters. Then, we meet up with Haplo and his dog again as he continues his mission for his lord.

This book is rife with racial hatred. The three races – humans, elves and dwarves – all hate each other. The elves believe themselves to be superior to all the races, humans hate that the elves see themselves as above them and enslave their people. The dwarves just seem to want to be left alone in their underground homes and distrust both humans and elves.

There was a part that stuck out to me when Paithan, the main elf character, is looking down on his human slaves, thinking about how beneath him they are and comparing how they have dark brown or black skin to his pure white skin. Now, this book was published in 1990, I was around 6 at the time so I don’t remember what was going on in the world at the time, but this scene really kind of hit me with a lot that is happening in the world now. As this book continues, the racial fighting and mistrust continues and it really seemed like a slap in the face. The more it came up, the more cringey it was.

Weird as it is going to sound, Haplo’s dog is my favorite character so far in this series. Haplo isn’t bad, he has depth, which a lot of the other characters seem to lack, but there’s something about the dog. He’s definitely more than he seems.

The other characters aren’t that memorable in my opinion. They each play their part in the story. I really felt like most of the relationship development just wasn’t there. When two of the characters are supposed to be falling in love, I just didn’t find it believable. It was too generic and predictable.

Then there’s the strange human wizard who calls himself Zifnab. He babbles on like a senile old man, argues with his dragon, who goes back and forth between wanting to eat the wizard and acting like an English butler. This wizard also babbles things that reference our world. Things like Gandalf, modern technology and even alludes to a conversation he may have had with George Lucas. This is never truly explained. Who is this man and where did he come from? Is it meant to imply that he’s actually from the real world? Honestly, I hate when stuff like that happens in fantasy novels. This is a completely different world from our own, I don’t want or need any kind of references to our world thrown in. I find it ruins the fantasy and just annoys me.

The plot, at least, was somewhat thrilling. Giant creatures known as tytans are destroying everything in their path. Weapons do nothing to stop them. There is a very real sense of dread and danger as the main cast of characters are fleeing for their lives, trying to get to their own people to warn them of the impending danger.

Judging from things Haplo says near the end of the book and the way the first two book have gone, I’m going to guess that the next book is going to take place on another of the four world, with only Haplo and his dog carrying over into the next book.

My rating for this novel is 3 out of 5 stars.

Have you read this series. Let me know what you think of it in the comments. Do you agree with my review?

Thanks for reading!

Fantasy Book Review Dragon Wing – The Death Gate Cycle # 1

Synopsis: from Goodreads

Ages ago, sorcerers of unmatched power sundered a world into four realms–sky, stone, fire, and water–then vanished. Over time, magicians learned to work spells only in their own realms and forgot the others. Now only the few who have survived the Labyrinth and crossed the Death Gate know of the presence of all four realms–and even they have yet to unravel the mysteries of their severed world…

In Arianus, Realm of Sky, humans, elves, and dwarves battle for control of precious water–traversing a world of airborne islands on currents of elven magic and the backs of mammoth dragons. But soon great magical forces will begin to rend the fabric of this delicate land. An assassin will be hired to kill a royal prince–by the king himself. A dwarf will challenge the beliefs of his people–and lead them in rebellion. And a sinister wizard will enact his plan to rule Arianus–a plan that may be felt far beyond the Realm of Sky and into the Death Gate itself.

Well, this is a fairly old book, having been published in 1990 (wow that makes me feel old). This book has been sitting on my shelf for a long time and thanks to my roommate’s help, it was decided it would be the next thing I read.

This novel starts out in a very mysterious and dark sort of way. A prisoner is being lead to his execution for a murder he swears he didn’t commit. An assassin is hired to kill a 10 year old child. And then…

Dwarves? But they’re not called dwarves, they’re called Gegs and the tone of the entire narrative completely shifts. I suddenly felt like I was reading a Robert Rankin or Tom Holt book. Both are authors I like, but it didn’t really jive with the first few chapters.

At first, I was a little put off by this, wondering what the heck it had to do with the beginning, but knew that I just had to keep reading to find out. Of course, I was not disappointed. As often happens in novels, these two seemingly unrelated things come together later.

This novel has a bit of a feel of “checking boxes” on the fantasy troupe list. It has elves, dwarves, dragons and of course magic. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, it just feel a bit reminiscent of it’s time, when many fantasy novels included those races, before it all became over done. Funny enough, as I’ve been reading more recent fantasy novels of late, the troupes here don’t feel over done because I haven’t really experienced them for awhile.

While I wouldn’t say that this book was amazing, I still really enjoyed it and would rate it 3 out of 5 stars. I would recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of the Dragon Lance series and anyone who enjoys a good ole fantasy mash up!

Thanks for reading!