Warning: this post contains spoilers for the novels and short stories of The Traveler’s Gate Trilogy, by Will Wight, including House of Blades, The Crimson Vault, and City of Light
In a way, you’re getting three reviews in one this week, because I’m going to be reviewing the whole Traveler’s Gate trilogy in this post, rather than doing a single post per book. That’s mostly because I happened to read them all in a single book, but also because I think that’s how they’re best presented: none are really so long or so contained that they need or should stand on their own. And how I wish that I could have given this three and a half stars, because that’s more accurately how I’d rate it. Let’s get into why.
We’ve spent the last seven weeks (seven weeks, really? That’s a lot of weeks) reviewing the Cradle series, also by Will Wight, whom I discovered when I happened to pick up Uncrowned, not even realizing that it wasn’t a stand-alone novel, but was instead the seventh book in a series. If you haven’t already read the Cradle books, I highly encourage you to do so, and then to read my reviews of them, starting with Unsouled. Anyhow, after devouring the Cradle series, I wanted to find out if Wight had anything else published, and thus I came upon the Traveler’s Gate Trilogy.
This was, as near as I can tell, one of the earlier works that Wight published, and it’s somewhat obvious. The writing in the trilogy is a little less polished than it is in the Cradle series, and the story-telling isn’t quite as smooth as it could be. With a different subject, the writing could have sunk the story, but the content and concepts of the trilogy were more than strong enough to make this more than worth reading.
Core to the entire concept of the series is something that I specifically look for in both my own writing and that of other’s: taking the standard tropes of fantasy, and turning them upside down and inside out and twisting them about in several dimensions other than the usual four. In Traveler’s Gate, this is fairly explicit. The main character is the guy who is sort of tagging along and trying just to keep himself alive while someone else is found to have a secret birthright and magical powers. Add that to completely over-sized swords (which somehow works), an intentionally melodramatic black cloak, talking dolls, and a unique magic system, and you have a really compelling and new story.
Wight doesn’t stop at that, though. The main conflict of the series is nothing like what we are led to think it is at the beginning, and by the end of the trilogy, exactly who the “bad guys” are has undergone several changes, and the concepts of what is good and what is evil, and even some interesting examinations of the benefits of different world philosophies (think utilitarianism vs Aristotelian virtues vs deism vs critical philosophy). All of this works together to more than make up for any shakiness to the writing itself.
However, I really hope that Wight leaves the trilogy where it is. There is apparently some noise about further sequels or further stories in the same world (or worlds, given the magic system), and the book I bought included several short stories both related and unrelated to the main story line, but as much as I enjoyed the trilogy, I honestly hope that he doesn’t do more with it. To my mind, it’s currently at a delicate balance, and trying to do more with it would risk giving answers to questions that I think it better to leave unanswered.