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Gideon by Alex Gordon
Review by Drew Bittner
Harper Voyager Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061687372
Date: 06 January 2015 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

When Lauren Reardon loses her father, she gains a mystery. Going through his effects, she discovers an entire lost history that ties her father to a small town named Gideon. Getting there won't be the hard part; surviving her family's unknown legacy, and the terrible schemes of a long-dead sorcerer, will be.

In Gideon, Alex Gordon develops a rich and engaging story that is partly about loss and partly about discovery. Lauren not only loses her father, she loses her idea of him; he was not simply John Reardon, whose hobby was making furniture. It turns out he was the descendant of Eliza Mullin, despised as a traitor to her 1830s religious community and a practitioner of evil magic.

The truth is more complicated. Eliza was the one who stood against the sorcerer Nicholas Blaine when he sought to corrupt the town of Gideon. The people of the town follow the Book of Endor's teachings, which guides them in recognizing and confronting supernatural evil--but the town's own leader is misguided and led astray. When Blaine is finally exposed, the men attempt to kill him, never realizing that they have played into his hands. Even so, Eliza is able to thwart Blaine's ambitions...but her guardianship can only last so long.

Lauren finds a copy of the Book in her father's old jacket, and discovers even more interesting artifacts hidden in the desk he made for her. She is intrigued enough to leave her native Seattle for rural Illinois, to follow the threads of her father's mysterious past. Her quest for knowledge carries an immediate price, however, as a friendly guide into these mysteries is brutally murdered.

Nevertheless, Lauren presses on. She goes to Gideon and her arrival is unremarkable, except for noticing that the crows will not venture near the town: a dire omen indeed, according to the Book. Once she is there, however, she finds herself a player in the town's unresolved drama--and possibly the heiress to Eliza's thankless protection of its people.

But there are traitors still in Gideon, those who heed Nicholas Blaine in his dusty crypt and want the power he promises. Lauren has to tread carefully, as the danger around her grows.

Gordon's debut novel is a genuine wonder, combining a sweep of one town's history with that history's impact on a young woman's life and destiny. There is magic both subtle and fierce, which put me in mind of Charles de Lint's works; there is the same naturalistic feel to the enchantments laid upon Gideon and her people.

Lauren is a terrific character, growing into a heroine more with every page. She has no notion of what Gideon is about or why it is so important--why its mission matters to the larger, unaware world--but as she (and the reader) learn, the urgency of getting things fixed becomes overwhelming.

Similarly, Eliza is a wonderful heroine as well. She sets a high bar for Lauren and her example demands much of her descendant, especially when the town is turned against her by a treacherous woman seduced by Blaine. She leaves her heirs all the tools that they need...if they can find them nearly 180 years later.

With a superbly drawn supporting cast--including the helpful Zeke, the skeptical Leaf Cateman, and Connie, who may be enemy or ally--and a singularly fantastic location, Gordon has created a wonderful entry in the field of contemporary fantasy. She's sure to attract a legion of fans, eager for her next book.

Highly recommended.

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