A novel by Margaret Weis and
Tracy Hickman (1995, Bantam Spectra)
Book 7 of The Death Gate Cycle
Patryns prepare to defend the Final Gate to the Labyrinth, as Xar
takes the dying Haplo to be raised and Alfred tries to rescue him,
while trying to stay away from the Seventh Gate.
1st to 7th, 2012, for the second time
A fitting conclusion to the Death Gate
cycle, giving us an unexpected resolution to the war between the two
major races. Unfortunately, a lot of the book was filler, and the battle
at the end felt a little forced. The fact that an appendix was felt to
be necessary to explain what went on says something about the
resolution. The series as a whole, though, was great, and this book did
a good job in tying it up.
The Seventh Gate picks up the morning after
Into the Labyrinth ended,
that is to say, after the battle for Abri against the dragon snakes and
the terrible things the Labyrinth has created. Marit and Hugh the Hand
have gone in search of Alfred, who was taken down in his dragon form by
a terrible red dragon of the Labyrinth. The first section of the book
follows their adventure as they track down his battle damage, then
follow the dragon back to its layer. The dragon is curious because it's
never encountered a Sartan before, or any man who could transform
himself into a dragon. Alfred is near death; I wish the character was
stronger, but I suppose the story is about Alfred redeeming himself by
not allowing him to faint and actually take responsibility for his
actions. The dragon knows Marit and Hugh are following it, so it lays a
trap, while it tortures Alfred. They sneak in, and Hugh uses the Cursed
Blade to help them rescue him; the blade turns itself into a ferocious
dragon to battle the red dragon, and it seems that it wins.
Marit heals Alfred, and as they discuss what to do next, Zifnab and his
dragon partner show up and offer to transport them to the Final Gate. I
have a lot of trouble believing the trip to the Final Gate could be so
short, for the dragons (who do not use magic to transport themselves as
the dragon snakes did) nor Xar in his flying ship. The Patryns use gates
instead of years to mark their age, and have been imprisoned for
generations, which implies that it takes decades to travel the distance
by foot. By air it shouldn't be a matter of minutes (or even a couple of
The Patryns of Abri have come to help out, on the backs of the good
dragons of Pryan, in the fight to save the final gate. But Marit, Alfred
and Hugh travel through the gate, into the burning Nexus (the dragon
snakes burned the whole city), and off to Abarrach, where they want to
rescue Haplo. So this is where the second part of the book takes place.
Unfortunately, this is my least favorite world, and we keep returning to
it, over and over and over again.
Alfred and Marit meet Balthazar, who has still survived from
and who wants their ship. Alfred, in the meantime, heals Marit, after
her encounter with a deadly lazar, and he replicates food for the
starving Sartan under Balthazar's rule. Balthazar, of course, gathers
his people to go out and capture the ship, though it is being tampered
with by Kleitus, former ruler of Necropolis and lazar who wants to
spread his kind out among the three other worlds. I find it
disappointing that Alfred couldn't release the soul of the lazar, the
way he put the dead soldier back to death at the end of
Fire Sea. I
supposed it is a different situation, as the soul is still attached to
the lazar, but he didn't even think of it, didn't try. The authors keep
telling us that Alfred is a powerful mage, but he lacks confidence. At
the end of Into the Labyrinth, he took on the persona of Coren, his true
self, whom I really enjoyed. But here he spends most of the book as
bumbling Alfred again. I don't like the reversal.
I wonder if throwing the lazar into the fire sea would end their lives
altogether. If their bodies physically disintegrate, how can the soul be
tied to anything anymore?
But Alfred's battle with the lazar is interrupted when Ramu shows up,
the son of Samah from Serpent Mage, who died in Into the Labyrinth, in Xar's first try at necromancy. I find it rather contrived that the
Council would elect Ramu after his father died, considering that Ramu is
not even a councilman. It seems more like an afterthought, as the
authors needed an obstinate Sartan to rule, and they forgot to create a
councilor like that when they wrote the previous one. Suddenly the rule
has become a family legacy, when it wasn't before (there is even a
footnote to that effect, noting the unusual situation).
Back on the water world, Zifnab showed up, and reverted for a moment to
the Sartan he was before the Sundering, so long ago. He is serious, in
his persona as James Bond, until he tells Ramu to get to the Final Gate
as the Patryns are trying to blast their way through! Oops, he just
created more of a rift between the two species. It seems the good
dragons had the same idea as Haplo, even before he did; otherwise there
would be no point in bringing all the Patryns and Sartan together. I
suppose Zifnab was transported by the magic of the good dragons, as they
seem to be able to get in and out of all the worlds at will. I guess
they must use Death's Gate to do this, but they don't seem to require
being near the gate at all. And given the fear the dragon snakes have of
being trapped in the Labyrinth, I'm guessing the good dragons won't be
able to travel out either, as they have been doing in the last two
Although Haplo dies with Xar at his bedside, he is not really dead, as
his soul lives on in the dog. And so Xar is furious when his necromancy
doesn't work -again! Alfred and Xar have a short battle, which Alfred
wins by surprising his enemy (by trapping him in a sarcophagus instead
of trying to kill him- something Xar woud never have suspected, which is
hilarious). Alfred then transports them to their ship by
magic, where Xar is waiting for them. Another short battle ensues, where
Xar leaves, Ramu's Sartan take the ship (including Marit) to the Nexus,
followed conveniently by another ship taking every single one of the
Patryns on Abarrach. This way, surprise, every Sartan and Patryn in the
entire four worlds are now converging on the Final Gate.
Haplo's soul can talk to Alfred, and to Jonathan (the good lazar) and
Hugh, since the two latter are more in the Death plane than the living.
He first directs them to escape, then forms a plan to rid the worlds
completely of Sartan and Patryns, so the mensch can live in peace (or
not) without interference, without a race of supermen who wanted to rule
them. The rest of the book follows and implements this plan. The problem
is that it takes so very long to implement.
First they have to enter the Seventh Gate, after which Alfred has to
travel back in time to the Sundering to find out how to shut Death's
Gate (not as interesting as it sounds). They reason, correctly, that shutting Death's Gate would close off
all the worlds from each other, as well as any exits to the Labyrinth.
Alfred dithers and dathers, trying to rationalize what is doing, Haplo
reappears, Hugh is at some point replaced by Xar (the last time we knew
it was Hugh would have to be on the back of the dragon, when Alfred uses
his magic to help the man breathe and Hugh finds out he can hear Haplo -Xar
couldn't hear Haplo). Speaking of Hugh, the authors don't seem to know
what to do with him in this book. He can't breathe Abarrach's air, so he
spends most of the book out of the action on the ship. When he does
reappear, he's replaced by Xar, and gets no real page time, either,
though he does help summon Kleitus to be killed by Jonathan when he
uses the Cursed Knife again (he wanted to protect Marit, but the knife
thought she was an enemy -a Patryn). All through the last two books (The
Hand of Chaos and Into the Labyrinth), we are told that only Alfred can
help Hugh achieve true death, and when the gate is closed, he does die,
but it is also more of an afterthought, given how much was invested in
him through the series.
Alfred enters Death's Gate from the Seventh Gate. I suppose it's a
different form than the one he entered to get from the Nexus to Abarrach,
or the other worlds he's been traveling to in the last books. And he
needs the power of the Seventh Gate to help him close it. On the other
hand, Samah opened the gate in Serpent Mage
- another world - all by
himself. How can closing it be so different?
The dragon snakes realize the danger Alfred presents from their battle
at the Final Gate of the Labyrinth, and one of them gets through,
injuring Alfred, and Haplo, and getting the jump on Xar, who is trying
to reform the four worlds into one. Haplo, through love for his lord
even now, warns Xar of the snake's attack, and Xar allows it to consume
him, destroying the magic he worked his whole life to create, to rule
all the worlds. I guess it was Haplo's love that taught him that lesson.
The dragon snake rises up in anger and physically destroys the Seventh
Gate (how convenient), at the same time as Alfred and Haplo join their
magic (the first time this has ever been tried, apparently) to shut
Death's Gate forever.
There is an appendix, written by Alfred, describing the situation before
and during the Sundering, and the reasons why the intended effect of
Samah's magic didn't work, from the Uncertainty Principle applied to
magic (love that) to doubts the other Sartan had as they realized there
was a Higher Power in the universe. He also gives us an accounting of
how Ramu relinquished command of the Council (bitten by the dog,
apparently, and it's a lasting wound...), and Balthazar has taken over.
There is to be peace between the Abarrach Sartan and the Patryns of Abri,
though there is a group still led by Ramu who opposes this. And my
favorite part of this appendix: Zifnab now thinks he is god, the Higher
Power -he went insane while witnessing the Sundering, which is why he is
such a funny character.
So the Death Gate Cycle ends. The first time I read this series, I
thought it was absolutely incredible. Now, with a more critical eye, I
think it is still really good, especially in its complexity. I do enjoy
these authors, and wonder if this is not the pinnacle of their writing.