Ah, summer camp. Woodsy hikes, cafeteria trays loaded with food, rainy days in the rec room, and battles against demonic forces bent on world domination.
When Darcy Pennington first arrived at Cedar Cove Camp, a few months shy of her thirteenth birthday, all she could think about was her own misery. How she didn’t fit in with all the other campers who’d been coming there for years. How badly she missed the equestrian camp her parents could no longer afford. How to attract the attention of a cute guy named Perry and stay as far away as possible from clingy, talkative Samantha.
She never imagined that she’d find a portal to a parallel world, whose inhabitants fully expect her to fulfill a prophesied destiny as deliverer and queen.
K.B. Hoyle’s Gateway Chronicles–The Six, The Oracle, The White Thread, The Enchanted, The Scroll and The Bone Whistle–tell the story of six teenagers from our world whose summer camp in northern Michigan conceals a gateway to the kingdom of Alitheia. Over the course of their teenage years, Darcy and her friends must hone their unique talents and face ever-mounting dangers in order to free Alitheia from the evil shadow-lord Tselloch and his minions. The six-book series has already won multiple awards, with glowing online reviews from a wide range of readers, from older elementary through adult.
Why the broad appeal? Quite simply, The Gateway Chronicles touch on some of the longings that, as human beings, we all share in common. In particular, they reflect our ingrained desire for a deeper reality, in which we have a unique role to play.
The name “Alitheia” closely resembles the Greek word for truth, aletheia. In fact, Darcy’s experiences in Alitheia directly engage her in the true realities that lie under the surface of her “ordinary” life on Earth. The kingdom’s topography of bays, harbors and peninsulas reflects that of the camp, but on a much broader scale. As the series progresses, the kingdom continues to “expand” as a series of quests take Darcy and her friends into the farthest reaches of Alitheia, and even into other realms and realities, such as Tselloch’s shadow-world. Their growing understanding of the kingdom reflects their growth in character, relationships, and abilities.
This “expansion” reminded me of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. At the beginning of the first book, Harry’s “world” consists of a cupboard under the stairs. By the end of the book, Harry has experienced a few magical spots in London, explored a fair amount of Hogwarts Castle, and has ventured into a corner of the Enchanted Forest. But with each passing volume in the series, Harry’s adventures take him farther out and deeper in. When he finally returns to the Great Hall at Hogwarts Castle for the climactic battle scene, he’s not the same terrified boy he was seven years before, waiting on the Sorting Hat to determine his future. In a similar way, The Gateway Chronicles’ final book (The Bone Whistle) returns Darcy to the clearing where she first encountered her prophesied role–but now, she finally has the wisdom, skill, and courage needed to fulfil it.
Along with giving readers a taste of a deeper reality, The Gateway Chronicles also relates to our desire for a higher calling. Each of the six teenagers pulled through the gateway into Alitheia are given a new identity: The Scribe, The Companion, etc. Each is supposed to possess a unique skill that will help them to overthrow the dark Lord Tselloch. However, at the outset, they all appear to be completely ordinary young people who are supremely unsuited for their task, especially Darcy. As the “Betrothed,” she is expected to exhibit incredible magic powers–and to marry the crown prince, Tellius. But at first, she doesn’t seem to have any magical abilities at all. And the arrogant young prince appears to despise her just as much as she does him.
However, as Chronicles of Narnia author C.S. Lewis wrote in his essay The Weight of Glory:
There are no ordinary people…You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours…The dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.
At first, Darcy responds to her given role with outright rebellion, leading her into dangerously close contact with Tselloch. She vacillates between moments of heroism and petty concerns about her friends’ conversations and the temperature of her food. But by the series’ end, Darcy and her friends have gradually become the young men and women they were always meant to be. Even the antagonistic bully of the series, Colin Mackaby, has a vital role to fulfil.
So, if you’re headed off to a summer destination–or simply want a refreshing escape on a sultry afternoon at home–try the Gateway Chronicles. You’ll find a fun taste of another “reality”, and make some great new fiction friends (Tellius, for example, becomes much more likeable). But more than that, I think you’ll be inspired to see deeper meaning in the world around you, and consider the role you have to play in it.
Note: After July 31, K.B. Hoyle’s books will temporarily be out of print as she waits to sign with a new publisher. So if you’d like to read the series, get it soon! It’s currently available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.