The Gates of Heaven
by Curt Benjamin
Category: Fiction / Fantasy
464 pages; ISBN: 0756401569
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner
The kingdom of Thebin was a rich and prosperous place where money was made from trade goods and the subjects enjoyed the rule of a benevolent king. When Prince Llesho was seven, the hordes of Horn marched into their country, killing the king and queen and selling the seven princes into slavery. An army of occupation now ruled Thebin and Prince Llesho was sold to Lord Chin-shi of Pearl Island to dive for pearls.
Determined to find his brothers and free his homeland, Llesho transferred to the gladiator arena where he had a better chance of buying himself out of slavery. Through a combination of circumstances he is sold when his master incurs a debt he can’t pay but is later freed thanks to the help of one of the earth gods. He finds two of his brothers almost right away and finds allies who will help him throw out the invaders including the nomadic tribes of the Qubal people. When he finds his next sibling he is joyous but he realizes the next prince found is mad and not to be counted on to fulfill the quest.
By this time, Prince Llesho realizes that his goal is bigger than his family regaining their ruler. Heaven is being besieged by an evil being let loose by Master Marrko, a powerful mage and Llesho’s sworn enemy. Only when all the princes are united and the kingdom is free will Llesho find the entrance that will take him to Heaven so he can defeat the evil creatures. If he fails, all of Earth and Heaven will be destroyed.
On his way to find his next brother, he is forced to sell himself into slavery to rescue his Qubal friend Prince Tayicheit. With a few minor setbacks including a storm that almost kills them, his rescue mission is a success. When the princes travels to Portus, he finds his next brother Menar a prophetic poet who was blinded by the slavers. Menar’s prophecies convince the Apidesha of the rightness of Llescho’s quest and allies himself with the prince as well as sending troops to free his homeland. Llesho turns to Thebin with additional troops from the Emperor of Shan and trained Thebin soldiers as well as the Quaal people. In Thebin, the last brother fights a guerrilla war against the Horn and expects the reunion of the princes to take place as soon as they enter the capital. If they can liberate their kingdom, Prince Llesho will then have to storm the gates of Heaven and banish the beast that his enemy let loose. Only then after a decade of wondering will he be allowed to rest.
Prince Llesho is a determined, head strong and vulnerable young man who attracts allies to his quest for one reason only. They believe in him. The prince learns early on that being favored by the gods is no easy thing because he is always at their whims and mercy. What sets out as a boy’s dream to find his remaining family turns into a man’s quest to free his homeland and destroy the indestructible if he wants to see this world and heaven safe.
On a more mundane level, he must find his missing brothers, a task that is filled with risks. Dogging his steps every inch of his journey is Master Markko who wants to be the one to save heaven and rewarded by being turned into an earth God. A jinn joined a dragon’s son to master Markko giving him his powers and somehow Llesho must find a way to undo the spell and return the son to his dragon only.
There are many kingdoms and empires on Llesho’s world and they all play a very important role in Llesho’s continued education. Two of the earth gods strive to teach Llesho what he needs to know for the moment of battle and readers can see the prince grow from book to book and even within each book. Curt Benjamin has done a brilliant job in world building so that readers believe that Lesho’s world where gods walk alongside man and magic is just another weapon to be used, actually exist.
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