When Kara Magari uncovers a secret door in the middle of the forest, she discovers (and trips through) a portal to a hidden world full of terrifying things: Ourea. She just wants to go home, but the natives have other plans for her. She clashes with immortal shapeshifters, is carried off by a dragon, nearly dies on several occasions, and somehow becomes the master of an ancient book of magic called the Grimoire. Every time she thinks she's safe, her new "friends" show their true colors. Kara needs an ally, or she might not survive Ourea's monsters. She drops her guard when Braeden, a native soldier with a dark secret, vows to keep her safe. And though she doesn't know it, her growing attraction to him may just be her undoing. For 12 years, Braeden Drakonin has lived a lie. The Grimoire is his one chance at redemption, and it lands in his lap when Kara Magari comes into his life. Though he begins to care for this stranded girl, there's something he wants more. He wants the Grimoire. Welcome to Ourea, where only the cunning survive.
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Although this book targets a younger audience, and I am certainly not within that demographic, I enjoyed the story thoroughly, the first in a trilogy. It is a fantasy that shifts between current time and space to another, parallel world of creatures and understated magic, with hints of science fiction components. Following a family upheaval, Kara Magari, a college-age student, inadvertently passes through a portal, called a Lichgate, into the world of Ourea, and finds herself unwillingly cast into the responsibilities and role of a successor to the Vagabond, a being with a thousand year history and unfinished business of pacifying and uniting a world of diverse and more or less humanoid beings. The geography of Ourea divides warring factions, and as the new Vagabond, Kara is endowed with her own magical powers by the Grimoire book to aid her in completing the Vagabond's mission. Part of her struggle is to learn what those powers are, what they mean in her mission, and how to use and control them, while another part of her struggle is to question and learn the constantly turning pictures and characters she encounters.
The story is well told, and the role and use of magic does not overshadow Kara's personal struggles, uncertainties, and surprises, good or bad. The novel focuses more on her history and development, the twists of discovery and disappointment in the characters she meets, the parallels and divergences between Ourea and Earth, and the constantly shifting grounds of her new reality.
This was a great listen. The narrator, also named Kara, skillfully uses multiple voices and accents to portray the various characters, and has hit on an excellent voice for Kara herself. I was quite taken with some of the alternate voices assigned to other characters. The anguish of Kara's past comes through in narration of the pieced flashbacks and the struggles with Deidre, and narration of the epilogue really sets up the continuation of the story and the character revelations to come.
I look forward to the second and third installments, both for the story and the voice acting.
Lichgates is the first book in The Grimoire Saga. In this first book the author, S.M. Boyce, throws Kara (the main character) and the reader into an entirely new work called Ourea. To get to this world, Lichgates are necessary. They are portals linking our world to the dangerous, yet beautiful, kingdoms of Ourea. They are scattered all over both worlds and it is through one of them in the Rocky Mountains that Kara stumbles.
Upon falling into an underground library, Kara finds waiting for her an old red leather book. The book is very magical. On it is a necklace with a pendant that looks like four crescent moons configured in the shape of a four-leaf clover. This book is so magical that there are blank pages throughout, but when asked the right questions the pages flip to sections and words appear with an answer.
This book is one of Kara’s only defenses against what lies in wait for her in Ourea. Upon opening the book, she has become the center of every kingdom’s focus; she is the Vagabond. Her purpose in this strange world is to reunite the four kingdoms in peace, fulfilling the goal of the first Vagabond who died a thousand years before.
This concept really caught me from the beginning. Like I said I was hooked from reading the first chapter alone. It takes a lot to do that with most books. Part of what kept me reading was the fact that this book doesn’t wait to get the reader into the action. There is no lead in chapters, no foreshadowing, no mercy. Kara is hiking one minute and in Ourea fighting for her life the next. Every time throughout the book it seems that there will be some time to relax (for the characters and readers alike) something happens. It’s almost impossible to put this book down. Lucky for me I was able to force the book down, which allowed me to savor every experience it held; there are many.
I loved many elements of this book. First off, the setting made me want to visit Ourea. I know this is impossible (not only because it’s not a real place) because if I went there, I’d most likely die (more on that soon.) Ourea is like the worlds of most fantastical stories. It has its beautiful landscapes, luxurious castles, and even a dreary kingdom no one wants to acknowledge. Its landscapes include forests, a kingdom nestled on top of a vertigo inducing multi mile high cliff, and even a kingdom found in a magical dome on the bottom of an ocean guarded by sharks. And it’s not just the places themselves that I fell in love with, it’s the way Boyce’s words describe them. I can’t do it justice in my own words, you’ll have to take my word for it or read the book. Her words paint a picture of every aspect allowing the reader to soak in the images.
The setting wasn’t the only exciting part of the book. There are also the various creatures of the land. To mention a few there are griffins, dragons, something Kara says is similar to a squirrel, and one of my favorites a flaer named Rowthe. I liked him a lot because he’s a huge dog like creature. Of course he has a unique ability, but I’m going to let you find that one out, it’s just really cool.
The characters Kara encounters are very hard to figure out. This helps the story be what it is more than anything else. The Grimoire from the beginning warns Kara that she can’t trust anyone in Ourea. A lot of the times it seems like the characters can be figured out and trusted, but then there’s either a subtle or drastic hint to the contrary. As a reader I was always jumping to conclusions about a character only to change my opinion soon after. I’m still waiting for a character to make a turn for the worse, but we’ll see if that happens.
Kara’s journey takes the reader all over Ourea and she meets a variety of good and evil. She even has encounters with the evil King, Blood Carden. He is the father of Kara’s companion Braeden. I guess I should have mentioned him by now. Carden is the ruler of the Stele, the banished kingdom who reeks havoc on Ourea even through a banishment. Braeden, his son, escaped from his father’s kingdom twelve years earlier and has been hiding elsewhere ever since. But the ever present question in my mind was whether or not he was one to be trusted. When would the evil in his blood consume him, if at all? For most of the book I kept liking and trusting him, but wanted to keep an eye on him for Kara’s sake (not that I could have helped here, that’s just silly she’s in a book.) There is also a growing connection between Kara and the mysterious Braeden which leads to some complications in the relationship of him as protector and one of her few friends.
To wrap this up, Lichgates is on my top five favorite books I have read in recent years. I loved the story, I loved the setting, I loved everything about this book.