Death Gate Cycle

I don’t write as much about books as I should, but then I don’t read as many books as I used to.

I often find myself reading the same series over again – Eddings’ Belgariad, Mallorean, Elenium and Tamuli, Zelazny’s Amber and occasionally Tolkien’s various works are among my most re-read.  It’s not often that I try to branch out and give a new series a shot, but Weis and Hickman’s Death Gate Cycle came at a co-workers recommendation.

In the backstory, two powerful races were waging a cold war over dominion of the world.  Through some good luck and perhaps better cohesion, the Sartan won out over their enemies the Patryns.  An inherently optimistic race, the Sartan sealed the Patryns in the Labyrinth, a world-prison where they would spend thousands of years in peace, with the hope that by the time they escaped they would be rehabilitated.

The Sartan also went about the work of re-creating the world, splitting their one planet into four separate ones – each representing one of the cardinal elements.

Unfortunately, something went wrong.  Each world fell apart in a slightly different way, and the Sartan’s original intended purpose for each went astray.  The Labyrinth became a hellish dungeon-world, and the Patryns lived in fear – most not very long, at that.  Eventually, though, one escaped – and began to help his compatriots escape as well.  One of those escapees, Haplo, is sent out through Death’s Gate to scout out the worlds and, if necessary, prepare them for Patryn dominion.

The series starts off pretty slowly, but it builds up quickly.  The various worlds are the main draw – of them two were decent and three were pretty interesting.  Unfortunately, those three are introduced last.  The world-building quality, though, is quite good – all worlds are fairly cohesive and well thought-out.  The narrative itself is more standard fantasy fare, and the characters often switch around so it’s hard to get a good feel for many of them.

All in all, though, I’d say it’s still one of the better fantasy series I’ve read.


  1. Jeff Said,

    February 27, 2008 @ 11:31 pm

    I loved this series! I also re-read it recently, and I decided to go through and purchase all the books this time, just for fun. I was pretty attracted to the first world more than the others, but that’s probably because Hugh is generally a badass, but Haplo shows him up as a completely different league of baddass-ery. Also, did you recognize Zifnab from anywhere? I think it’s funny that he keeps showing up. Peace out, dude.

  2. niahak Said,

    February 27, 2008 @ 11:44 pm

    Yeah, I didn’t like Zifnab at first simply because he seemed like a hokey reference to Dragonlance. Thankfully they fleshed out his character a bit.
    Hugh is a badass, but I think my favorite character by the end was Balthazar. He really makes a great transition from desperate and ruthless to powerful and helpful, especially when he starts slapping the other Sartan around since they mucked up his world.

  3. Steph Said,

    March 19, 2011 @ 12:41 pm

    I first read this series 13 years ago when I was 13. I decided to reread them all to see if they withstood the test of me growing up, and they did!

    I agree with niahak, Balthazar is my favorite character!

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