horned-gate
Images of Jenn Moss and her book are used solely for review purposes under Fair Use Doctrine

I’ve been following Jenn’s Blog for about as long as I’ve had a blog myself. So once I had some room on my TBR, I decided to give her work a read.

Spolier Free Summary: The Horned Gate is about a man named Jake who must use his ability to walk through dreams to help a friend trapped in a nightmare. That seems like a very short summary, but the plot is fairly interconnected, and any other information may spoil something for the reader.

Character:  Jake is the main character. The other characters we see plenty of are Conner, Lev, Gus, Tara, and Shay. The book is in first-person narrative though, so we really only see Jake’s point of view. Jake is strong enough to hold up that sort of narrative. He’s proactive and sympathetic.  The strength in this book is that Jake is a father trying to prove he’s a good father. I’ll be honest here and tell you that holds a lot of resonance with me. One reason why I connect so well to Jake is I have my own sorted history with my biological father, and this book struck that chord. I think my biggest issue with this book is that the relationship Jake has with another character relies on “off camera” information. It’s hard to buy into the relationship (especially the strength of that connection) because the reader never saw it develop. It’s something I noticed, and it’s honestly something that bothered me. However, it didn’t detract from Jake’s compelling character and the conflicts he faces. Also, some of the characters are very accepting of circumstances without much conflict or debate. This might be a problem for some to suspend disbelief. It wasn’t enough to turn me away from the book though.

Speaking of first-person. There’s a lot of inner monologue and questioning that I’m not familiar with. I noticed it, and I don’t know that it was completely necessary. The inner monologue isn’t internal dialogue, but rather the thought process of the character. I didn’t mind, as I feel it was done to make the reader feel they were in Jake’s head even as he experienced the moments in the book, but I’m not sure I’ve seen the technique a lot. DISCLAIMER: I don’t read a ton of first person. This might be something everyone does, and I’m just so unfamiliar with that type of narrative I don’t know.

Exposition: I usually say any time I can’t remember exposition is good balance. I remember a few moments of backstory tucked where they were at least logical, but there weren’t that many, and, again, they were at least logically placed.

jenn-mossWorldbuilding:  This is the strongest area. The magic system isn’t overly complex, but it is well thought out. The world and magic interact together in a way that’s believable. Moss uses a mentor archetype to teach the magic system to the reader. It’s a common tool, as I’ve mentioned, but it’s done well and there’s a few new angles Moss takes to give it a bit of a fresher look.

Dialogue:  This is, in my opinion, the weakest area of the book. That’s a good thing considering the quality of the story. The reason it’s a weak area for the book is it’s inconsistent.  There are areas I feel are forced, this is usually in regard to the relationship I mentioned above, but the conversation between Jake and Tara at the end is powerful. Dialogue is tricky. I think it’s an area I could improve in to some degree (I think I overuse the “wit” now and then).  I wouldn’t go so far as to say there are “bad” segments, just some that are so much stronger than others.

Description: One thing I noticed in this book is something actor Anthony Stewart Head talked about once while working on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He said something to the effect that no one just stands and talks. He got around this by routinely cleaning his glasses on camera, just to give himself something to do while speaking. Moss does this. I didn’t go back and log every conversation, but she did a nice job of avoiding talking heads. Her settings are more visual than anything else. The other senses aren’t activated a ton, but it’s more than enough for me. Again, I’ll freely confess this isn’t an area I care about at all as a reader.

Overall: This book is powerful because of it’s character and the conflicts he faces. A man has to do right by his family and an old friend who’s misguided (he said nimbly avoiding a spoiler). That sort of story alone is worth a read. It has a fast pace with a magic system that is easy to understand without being too simple. I won’t say it’s as good as, but this book reminded me of early Dresden. The tone, and development are the areas I think are most comparable. I don’t know that readers of Dresden will like this book (Dresden, especially early Dresden, is more mystery than thriller).  But if you’re like me, and you read to learn about the craft of writing, there is some similarity in style. This sort of book would be great for one of those flights home for Christmas. It’s a quick, pleasant read with charming characters.

Thanks for reading

Matt

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11 thoughts on “Book Review: The Horned Gate by Jenn Moss

  1. Personally, I place a fair amount of value in a story’s ability to engage the senses while reading. I find that detail, even in high doses, can enrich the reading experience if handled properly. I understand why others don’t have a preference for it, though. Great review, Matt.

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