Twelve-year-old Porter would much rather spend his weekends playing soccer than channeling spirits in the parallel universe of Pericael. Unfortunately for him, Porter’s family has guarded the gate between Earth and monster-filled Pericael for generations, so he’s not getting out of Gatekeeper lessons anytime soon.
But some after-school activities are more dangerous than others.
When a soul thief threatens the gate, Porter reluctantly comes to its defense… and gets thrown deep into Pericael’s dangerous jungle wilderness. With the help of two fierce native girls, Porter must learn to embrace the creepy spirits and find his way back to the gate. But the soul thief is racing for the gate too, and if he gets there first, Porter won’t have a home to go back to.
I first read Hayley’s YA Novel ‘Odriel’s Heirs‘ last year, and absolutely fell in love with her writing style and story telling, so when she contacted me offering an early chance to read her newest MG novel I jumped at the chance.
Porter would love to be an average 12 year old boy, unfortunately for him his family are descendants of a long line of Gatekeepers guarding the door to the magical world of Pericael. A world filled with Spirits, magic and untold dangers. Porter isn’t simply a guardian of the door, but of the world itself. He resents being picked as the next ‘Kotalla Kan’ and would much rather spend his days playing football, but when an unexpected knock comes to the door, Porter and his cousin Ames are dragged into Pericael and into a battle against powerful magic. He must use all his training, and be willing to listen to the spirits if they are to make it out alive.
The Gatekeeper of Pericael is such a fun and fast paced MG novel. I would have devoured this as a teen and was still swept away on Porter’s journey as an adult. Porter is a brilliant character. He is a boy of two worlds, and feels like he truly fits into neither. He never asked to be chosen as the next Kotalla Kan, and would more than happily pass the burden onto another family member. But when the need arises he is able to put his wants & needs on the back burner and step up to protect the world beyond the gate. He’s a typical kid, but has a great amount of character growth. I did feel sorry for him in parts. Being the Kotalla Kan put a huge weight on his shoulders, people expect great things from him which is a lot of pressure for someone so young. If you like coming of age stories then you will love this.
Hayley also blesses us with a wide depth of side characters you can’t help but fall in love with. Ames, Porter’s cousin was fantastic. He was an absolute nerd and his Star Wars references had me in stitches in parts. His constant happiness and ability to look on the bright side, even in the face of danger, made him the best companion, and it was his awe and wonder for the world of Pericael that had Porter finding his love for it before the end. Their other travel companions are Conri & Fira, sisters and Pericael natives. They are both trained in the way of the spirits. One is relaxed and calming the other a sure fire cracker, but both incredibly powerful & Porter would never have made it without them. I really enjoyed getting to explore all their relationships with Porter and seeing him come around to being the Kotalla Kan.
Perical is such a vivid and well developed world. It’s an almost parallel universe filled with spirits, creatures both friendly & deadly and a unique and thought out magic system. Pericael is made up of multiple villages, each with a Kaypa, a Shamen and Village leader, and their Jamae-ti (apprentice) who are the protectors of the village and the only ones allowed to learn and use Spirit magic. The magic system revolves around Shamen’s being able to talk to and use the power of the ‘Spirits’ that roam the land through spell rings to create powerful spells. This is the perfect modern story for kids who longed to travel through the wardrobe to Narnia, or down the rabbit hole to Wonderland.
The book is incredibly fast paced, and at 186 pages the perfect length for children to really get their teeth into the story. Hayley’s writing style eases us through the story, and she knows exactly how to get readers on edge, holding onto the book white knuckled. With it being such a short read there is no lack of action or adrenaline fuelled scenes, in fact our protagonist is in some sort of danger through most of the book. But It’s also a story about friendship, resilience and about coming into your own. There are enough ‘slower’ scenes, scenes where we get to really bond with Porter through his inner monologue, his lack of faith in himself and his annoyance that if he had just paid attention he might have been more help. And I loved these, but I also loved the epic (yes they were truly epic) fight/battle scenes we get too. Seeing the Spirit power in use, leaning about all the different offensive and defensive spells and seeing Porter and crew kicking some ass, made sure we as the reader are glued to the pages eagerly awaiting the final battle between good and evil.
The second MG novel I’ve read recently that has reaffirmed my love for the age range. Filled to the brim with adventure I would love to travel back to Pericael on another journey some day. An easy 4/5 stars.