Gateway Chronicles by KB Hoyne

Summary: Young Adult fantasy series that is well-plotted, character-driven, and relatable. 

I first read the Gateway Chronicles series about four years ago. That is long enough ago that I have forgotten a lot of the specific plot details and twists, but I still remember the broad strokes. As I re-read the series, it felt like a sweet spot of enjoying some of the story’s nuances that I might have missed on a first read, but also still regularly be surprised at plot twists that I had forgotten.

Young adult fantasy is comfort reading for me. Earlier this year, I read the first three books of the Harry Potter series aloud to my kids. But that was as far as I felt comfortable reading based on their ages and response to scary parts. But that did not fully satiate my need for story. Part of what I love about young adult fantasy is its focus on the hero. Heroes have a clear purpose and goal. They are willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of a person or a group of people. There is beauty in the understanding of right and wrong. Adult fantasy often feels the need to nuance the idea of right and wrong so that everyone is so tainted that it can be hard to see any sense of goodness (similar to many modern spy stories.) I am not looking for wooden stories that have no development or struggle, just action, but I am looking for inspiration to press into the more challenging aspects of life because there is a sense of purpose.

Darcy Pennington feels detached from life. She is 13, and her family makes her go to a family camp. She wants to be popular and liked, but not by the two kids who will be there that she knows from her middle school, Samantha and Lewis. Sam and Lewis, along with three others, have been at the camp for years. They have a strong relationship, and Darcy feels both on the outside and a bit claustrophobic from the warm acceptance that Sam has for her. Those relational dynamics change when Darcy stumbles on a gateway into another world and has to bring the rest of the group back to the world to complete a prophecy. And that starts the series of six books. Each book details the group as they start the week of camp by magically entering the fantasy world. And once inside that world, they live for a year, grow and change and then return to the world of the camp at the same point in time. For six years, they essentially live two years, and by the end, their bodies are physically 18/19, but they have the life experience of 22/23.

Much of the books’ plot concerns their relationship to the significant prophecy and other “oracles.” Darcy especially is resistant to her role at the start, and her resistance to that role (a natural resistance that makes a lot of sense) is the driving force for the conflicts of the first three books. As she shifts to a growing acceptance of her role and what that role means in the later books, the conflict of the books shifts subtlety from an internal conflict of resistance to the prophecy to an external resistance of how her role impacts others. While Darcy is the main character, the development of all of the series’ characters is done well. In addition to the six characters from Earth, there are also a variety of human and non-human characters that are integral to the story. And plenty of notable characters that die along the way. A great evil has to be opposed, and the opposition to evil has an actual cost.

I gave my three early teen nieces a copy of the first book of the series for Christmas. I do not think this is a series only for girls, but the main character is female, and I like to see strong female leads (and my only nephew is a bit too young, I think.) The first three books of the series are on audio. I listened to the first book of the series on audiobook but then shifted back to print. I can read young adult novels so much faster than listening to them. I re-read all six books in less than two weeks.

More than anything else, the series reminds me that I need to keep seeking out good fiction. Fiction is a reminder of our humanity. Characters make decisions we do not like, but we can understand. They lie, hide, love, and give in natural ways (if well written.) Fiction helps us see the world around us, especially fantasy and young adult fiction that is a bit abstracted from our everyday world.

Previous Reviews: The Six, The Oracle, The White Thread, The Enchanted, The Scroll, The Bone Whistle

Leave a Comment