Raven's Gate by Anthony Horowitz
Series: The Gatekeepers #1
Genre: Middle Grade, horror, thriller
Published on June 1, 2005
Published by Scholastic Press
Read From: 3.25.13 - 3.29.13
As punishment for a crime he didn't really commit, Matt was given a choice: Go to jail or go live with an old woman named Mrs. Deverill in a remote town called Lesser Malling.
A strange and sinister plan is coming together in Lesser Malling, with Matt at the center of it all. People who try to help him disappear. . . .or die. It all ties to the evil place named Raven's Gate - a place who destiny is horrifyingly intertwined with Matt's own. An ancient doom is about to be unleashed. . . .and Matt is the only one who can stop it.
Cover Blurb: Yes or No? It’s so-so. If I didn’t know the Author’s works already, I might have picked it up because the title, but the cover is pretty basic. Not terribly exciting, but slightly attention-grabbing despite that.
Characters: Poor Matt. That’s all that I thought as I read this book. Poor, poor Matt! Ironically enough, that’s how I felt about Alex Rider, too. I’m not a big fan of fourteen-year-old male protagonists in modern-era stories. They tend to be little punks who need to be taken down a notch or two. But Anthony Horowitz has a way of making me extremely attached to his fourteen-year-old boys, and feeling incredibly sorry for them. Matt has been thrust into a situation that he can do nothing about. He would like to, and he certainly tries, but he’s powerless to stop what’s happening, and no one believes him when he tries to get help. And all I can think is, I want to be in this story! I would be on Matt’s side! I want to help this poor kid! But I can’t, of course, and it’s pure torture. Matt may at first start off as a bit of a little punk - he’s a petty thief, but the Reader can immediately tell that Matt really is a good kid, and when events spiral out of control . . . This is a hot cocoa-and-pillow read all the way. I couldn’t give Matt a hug, so my pillow stood in his place, and I couldn’t share a cup of cocoa with him, so I drank it for both of us. I was so busy feeling sorry for Matt that I didn’t pay a great deal of attention to the other characters, except to note that Mrs. Deverill is absolutely creepy, I never in my life hated a cat as much as I hated Asmodeus, and Richard was awesome once he decided to take Matt’s side.
The Romance: There isn’t any!
Plot: Lesser Malling is weird. So is Mrs. Deverill. Matt wants nothing more than to leave the creepy little Yorkshire village, even if it means being sent to prison instead, but there’s a problem: the town won’t let him leave. Every time he tries to take the road out, he just ends up right where he was. On top of that, there’s something strange going on at the old abandoned nuclear power plant, and Matt gets the distinct feeling that Mrs. Deverill plans on using him for something nefarious. It’s as intriguing - and yes, as weird - a storyline as it sounds. With Matt literally trapped in Lesser Malling, the story has a very isolated feel to it, which only makes it creepier, and while the events themselves are not all that terrifying (though certainly unexpected; don’t get too attached to characters in this book, ‘cause Anthony Horowitz isn’t afraid to kill them), there’s a constant undertone of creepiness that permeates the entire story, making one’s neck hairs stand on end at times. It was one of those stories that when I was done, I wasn’t completely positive that I liked it, or if it was just too weird and creepy for me. I decided that I liked it.
Believability: Not applicable.
Writing Style: The book is intended for teens, yet the writing style is surprisingly simpler than one would expect in a teen book. While I liked the story well enough, this wasn’t my favorite bit of Anthony Horowitz’s writing. It doesn’t do his talents justice.
Content: While the violence isn’t grotesquely detailed, severe brutality is implied. And while the demonic and Satanic imagery is nothing like in The Diviners, it is definitely there.
Conclusion: If this book were turned into a movie, it would be bad. Just plain stupid. Even as a book (which can get by with so much more than movies), I raised my eyebrows at the climax. For one thing, the main villain of the piece (who actually isn’t Mrs. Deverill; she’s a minor villainess) was obvious. As soon as he was introduced, I didn’t trust him. For another, the villain monologues for way too long in the end. And for another . . . Combining a nuclear explosion with a witches’ ritual? Really? That’s kind of . . . silly. Like bad sci-fi movie silly. Other than that, though, the rest of the book was interesting, creepy, and entertaining. Not Anthony Horowitz’s greatest work, but still an interesting idea.
Recommended Audience: Guy-read, fourteen-and-up, great for thriller/horror fans or someone looking for something different.
Others in The Gatekeepers Series: