Gods Old and Dark, the last novel in fantasy author Holly Lisle's acclaimed World Gates trilogy, wasn't just a book about a colossal battle for the survival of Earth. It was a colossal struggle to finish, as well, as Lisle frantically tried to end the series before page 325.
The novel begins with the Sentinels of Cat Creek, a secret organization to save the world, discovering that Lauren Dane, her sister Molly, and some of their friends are using magic without their permission and drawing the attention of the evil Night Watch. They slowly get sucked into the war between Molly and the dark gods, with Thor (yes, that Thor) as an ally and a chance to become gods themselves. Sounds exciting, right? It's too bad that completing the series with the flair it started with seemed to be the farthest thing from Lisle's mind. From page one, Thor is a deus ex machina, sent to get the Sentinels out of a bind that Lisle hadn't thought through completely. While he does get a (very) little bit of character development, he also consistently saves the day for Lauren and her magic-wielding army, rendering the struggles faced by the characters of the first two novels pointless.
Lisle hurtles from battle to battle and scene to scene with a speed that gives the novel a rushed feel instead of a suspenseful tone, as though she wanted to move on to other, more important projects. Characters are made immortal, taking away suspense; if the reader doesn't fear for the death of a character, it takes half of the fun out of a book. The end, too, is unsatisfying. Loose ends are left behind with the FBI, two of the Sentinels, and the Night Watch, as though Lisle forgot that she wouldn't be returning to the series. The end feels like a sloppy attempt to end a series intended to go on for several more books.
The one major satisfaction in the novel is the redemption of Baanraak, one of the evil Night Watch. While even that is sloppy - Lisle uses a plot device rather than an honest character development - Baanraak and those involved in his part of the plot are the only compelling characters in the story. His eccentric romance with Molly is one of the few pleasures of Gods Old and Dark.
While Lisle's latest novel gives some closure to the World Gates trilogy, it does not live up to the stirring and multifaceted tale begun with The Memory of Fire, nor is it on par with Lisle's other work. The Chicago Sun-Times described Holly Lisle as "an author unlikely to write a sloppy or stupid book." It is this reviewer's hope that this remains Lisle's only attempt to prove them wrong.