Book Review: Raven's Gate
Publication Date: October 1, 2006
· Anthony Horowitz
by R.J. Carter
Published: September 8, 2006
Matthew Freeman is a young kid on the cusp of taking the wrong track. Since his parents died six years before, the fourteen-year-old has been living in less than ideal circumstances with his mother's half-sister and her boyfriend. His only friend is Kelvin, an older delinquent a few doors down, who has managed to drag Matt into a life of petty theft and shoplifting.
But when Kelvin gets a tip on a barely-guarded warehouse full of DVDs, things go downhill quickly. To Matt's horror, the lone security guard catches them, Kelvin stabs him, and Matt and Kelvin are both caught in the act by the police. Rather than place Matt into juvenile detention, the courts talk him into volunteering for a new program for young offenders: he will live in foster care, in the country, working a farm. His guardian in this matter is Mrs. Jayne Deverill, a stern older woman, who owns a dilapidated farm in Lesser Malling. The farm is run by a mentally deficient farmhand, and monitored by Mrs. Deverill's ubiquitous black cat, Asmodeus.
Matt has no intentions of staying, however. Lights in the deep woods, strange chants, and hard labor conditions are hardly his idea of a rehabilitative environment. Trapping the attack cat, Matt begins to rummage through the house while Mrs. Deverill is out, looking for enough money to carry him back to London:
Matt's attempt at escape is thwarted, however, when -- no matter what twists or turns he takes on the road out of Lesser Malling -- he continually ends up back at the same intersection. It's not until he tries to go through the woods that he learns more of the forces he's been put up against, when he discovers an abandoned nuclear power facility, Omega-1, and a farmer from Greater Malling who is well aware of who and what Mrs. Deverill is.
He went back upstairs and into Mrs. Deverill's bedroom. Surely he would find money here. He opened the wardrobe. Mrs. Deverill's clothes hovered in the darkness, suspended from wire hangers with her shoes underneath. Matt was about to close the door when he noticed a cardboard box in the back corner. He leaned down and opened it. There was something inside. Not money. Photographs.
He took one of them out and found himself looking at a cemetery. The photograph was black-and-white, taken with a telephoto lens. There was a crowd of people, dressed in the usual somber clothes, and in the middle of them a boy who was eight years old. Matt recognized him instantly. With a sense of horror and sickness, he realized he was looking at a picture of himself.
This was his parents' funeral.
Six years ago.
But it was impossible. Nobody had taken any photographs. And even if they had, even if a journalist or someone had been there, what was this picture doing here? How had Mrs. Deverill got hold of it?
There were two sheets of paper attached to the photograph by a clip. With his heart pounding, Matt slipped them loose, then turned them around so he could read them. An official police report. Each page was marked CONFIDENTIAL in red letters. Matt tried to concentrate on the words in the half-light.
...THE WITNESS STATEMENT OF MRS. ROSEMARY GREEN IN RELATION TO THIS CASE IS NOT TO BE RELEASED AND WE RECOMMEND A COMPLETE MEDIA BLACKOUT. THE CHILD, MATTHEW FREEMAN, IS ONLY EIGHT YEARS OLD AND HAS DEMONSTRATED PRECOGNITIVE ABILITIES WHICH WOULD SEEM TO BE BEYOND...
Precognitive abilities. Matt didn't want to put the words into simple English. Nor did he want to read any more of the report. In that second, he made his decision. He thrust the box back into the corner, closed the wardrobe doors, and left. In the living room, the portrait watched silently. Asmodeus slammed himself again and again against the sides of the basket, trying to escape. Matt didn't notice either of them. He threw open the door and ran across the yard.
Unfortunately, this farmer -- and, subsequently, anyone else who tries to help Matt -- ends up dead. It's only because of a talisman the farmer passes on to Matt that he can traverse the roads without looping back on himself. In this way, he meets Richard Cole, a newspaper reporter from a no-news small-town newspaper. Now if only Matt can get Richard to believe him.
Black magic and Lovecraftian "Old One" monstrosities blend with modern science in this chilling horror story from Anthony Horowitz. If Stephen King wrote juvenile fiction, Raven's Gate is the kind of thing he would write. Our hero is placed in one hopeless situation after another, continually thwarted at every turn until even the reader believes that Matt is doomed to whatever purpose Mrs. Deverill and her strange companions have for him. But Matt has to dig deep and find the power inside himself to conquer the evil he's encountered -- nothing less than the fate of the entire world is at stake!
Open the Raven's Gate with caution. There are things on the other side you really don't want to meet up with!