Rage Winnoway's mother is in a terrible car accident, and she falls into a coma. The doctors say there's no reason why she shouldn't wake up, but she remains asleep. Everyone expects her to die, but Rage will not accept it.
And if her mother does die, Rage will have to give away all her dogs. Mr. Walker, a small chihuaha who tends to be in charge; Bear, an older, cold dog who has had a harsh life; Billy Thunder, Bear's cheerful puppy who just wants some love; and Elle, an unattractive but loyal and brave dog with limitless energy.
No one will let Rage visit her mother, so she runs away with her dogs to try and get into the hospital. Maybe if her mother can just hear Rage's voice, she'll wake up!
But Rage and her friends don't get to the hospital. Instead, Rage finds a strange gateway in the forest and a mysterious creature called the Firecat appears to her and tells her to go through. On the other side, the Firecat says, is a wizard with extraordinary powers, and the only hope of saving her mother. Believing it all to be an elaborate trick, Rage goes through the gateway with her dogs. But when she wakes up on the other side, She finds that there's definitely something strange going on.
Mr. Walker is transformed into a tiny, furry little man. Bear turns into a real bear, Billy Thunder is a teenage boy, and Elle a brave warrior woman. And then Goaty, the neighbor's goat, seems to have wandered after them and gone through the gate as well, and is now a sort of faun!
With only the Firecat's cryptic directions and explanations, Rage and co. set off through the strange land of Valley in search of the wizard, who can hopefully both send them home and save Rage's mother.
Let's start off saying that Isobelle Carmody is Australian. Unfortunately, she's not quite as awesome as, oh... Garth Nix or Catherine Jinks, to name a few other Australian authors. Apparently, Carmody is more well-known for her series Obernewtyn, which I've actually never heard of before now. Though I hadn't heard of Isobelle Carmody herself until stumbling across Night Gate in the library the other day.
I honestly wasn't expecting much from this book. The cover wasn't all that interesting (I know, I know, don't judge a book by its cover...), and the plot didn't sound very fabulous either. But I was pleasantly surprised to find this story enjoyable and oddly thoughtful at times.
The whole thing has this strange dream-like atmosphere that was kind of disconcerting at times, and which would've been awesome if the ending had different. But the ending wasn't different, so it just made the book seem a little off. The characters weren't very impressive either. Rage seemed a bit forgetful and just plain uninteresting, while most everyone else did nothing but argue. Goaty is definitely my favorite, with his adorable, pessimistic self.
Billy Thunder does have one of the most interesting and, let's just go ahead and say, coolest quotes ever. "'I don't think I'd like to be completely human ... I thought I would, but now I can see that human minds are growing all the time, until they are like enormous houses with thousands of rooms and twisty passages and dark hallways all full of cobwebs and shadows and forgotten things. No wonder there is so much confusion in human minds. Dog minds are like standing outside. There are no walls, the wind blows freshly, and the light falls everywhere.'"
Carmody's writing really is very pretty. She's built herself a pretty cool world, with a city that sounds an awful lot like Billy's description of the human mind. I don't know if she did that on purpose or not, but either way it's cool.
I'd give this book to kids maybe 10-14 who like simpler fantasy stories. It certainly wasn't a great book, but I do think it's worth reading.
There are (supposedly) two more books in the trilogy (which would make sense). The second book is Winter Door, and the third book is supposed to be Firecat's Dream. But it doesn't look like Firecat's Dream is actually published, and isn't even listed in the Gateway trilogy on some sites. Since Night Gate was published ten years ago, I really have no idea if Firecat's Dream will ever actually exist or not. Isobelle Carmody doesn't have her own website, so there's really no source to go to.