Danny is from a family of what are known as mages, specifically the North family. The mages are descended from the mythological gods, but their powers have been greatly diminished because of a lack of gates, as the title suggests. Gates are made by gatemages, and a powerful kind of gate can be made to go to another world, Westil. If a mage passes through this gate and back, their power will be multiplied and they will be a god. Unfortunately for the mages, Loki locked all the gates that ever existed over one thousand years ago, and the current families promised each other to kill any gatemage they found after a war. They are left with not very much power and a lot of contempt for normal humans, called drowthers by the mages. Danny is a smart boy who is isolated because he seems to have no power. Some mages have an affinity with animals, and they can "ride" with them; others are good with plants, and can make things grow. Basically, each mage gets a certain kind of magic with which they associate. Most mages can make clants, a kind of copy of themselves made of things in the world that they can move around and see through. Danny can do none of the normal magic. Danny, naturally, is a gatemage, and a super powerful one at that. My main problem with the book is the gaping holes in Card's explanations. Some explanations were so flimsy I almost gave up on the book. Most mages get power by treating whatever their affinity is with kindness and whatnot. So Danny has to be nice to spacetime? And he likes to prank people because... Oh, of course, because spacetime pranks people all the time. Right. So Danny gets his power by being mean to people. But he's really a nice person! You can't blame him for doing nasty things; it's just his nature! And all gatemages get all sorts of special talents, like being able to learn a language by listening to just a couple of sentences. This is justified by the fact that gatemages can travel around in an instant to anywhere in the world, so they need languages. The gates also completely heal whoever passes through them, so gatemages can heal from any wound, even a bullet to the head (if they survive long to make and pass through a gate) and they never get sick. How convenient. There is no explanation offered for this. No other kind of mage gets added skills, and it isn't really necessary. Nor is it necessary to make Danny thousands and thousands of times stronger than any other gatemage that has ever been. Really, just twice as strong would have been more than enough. Some of the scenes were also unnecessary. Card really did not need the scene where a grown woman practically molested 13-year-old Danny in front of her husband and a friend. Where did that come from? There is an explanation, of course; the women had a troubled childhood. Sure, whatever you say! And the seen when Danny spends about 20 minutes in a public bathroom trying to work out how to hide his backpack in a gate while describing the loud sounds coming from some man in a stall. The sole purpose of this scene seemed to be so that Danny could make fun of the man for the remainder of the chapter. The book is also very shallow. The reader follows Danny through most of it, though there is a side plot taking place on Westilin, and Danny doesn't have to try for anything. He basically sits there and goes, "Wow! I can do this! And look what I figured out in two minutes! And now that I know you, I can suddenly do this! And it's all because of my super fast learning skills that come with being a gatemage (another of those superfluous skills)." There was no depth to the book. Card tried to develop it, but the plot was shallow, and it spelled everything out. It said in the book that wow, maybe not all drowthers are the same. And maybe there's more to them than mages think. (I'd quote, but I can't find the page). This isn't usually so bad, but it was stuck tactlessly in the middle of the chapter in a blatant attempt to develop Danny.
That said, I can now explain why I'm not taking all five points away. I enjoyed the idea of mages and the basic plot. It was interesting to read, and I liked the magic system if you ignore the gatemages (which is hard because both the man character of the main plot and the main character of the side plot are gatemages). I also liked how the idea explained ancient gods, with different families being the gods of different places, such as Greece and Norway. It also had a cool concept of the clants being what people thought were fairies, elves, and sprites.
It can have a 2.3. If you just accepted everything, it made a nice story, but it was hard to get past some of the things. It was also a little confusing at times, and the explanations really stretched the limits of my imagination. I suppose it's like flat soda. It has a nice flavor, but missing that fizz that makes it wonderful, as well disappointing because you were expecting something a bit better. And it tastes, well, flat.