Rachel Wilde comes from a dimension that exists adjacent to ours. The people there have structured their society around daemon collecting: they locate, catch, and repair malfunctioning daemons (creatures out of phase with our world that tempt people to do good or evil). Now Rachel has been given two unusual assignments: 1) find a person who has been trying to break down dimensional barriers, and 2) track down a missing line of gatekeepers, human placeholders for a daemon that was too badly damaged to repair. Authorities of Rachel’s world believe the missing gatekeepers are descended from a girl who went missing from West Africa hundreds of years ago, likely sold into slavery. With no leads to go on, Rachel seeks help from Bach, a raving homeless man who happens to be an oracle. Bach does put her in the path of both of her targets—but he also lands her in a life-threatening situation. Somehow, Rachel has to stop the criminal, reunite a gatekeeper with her stolen past, and, above all, survive.
Gatekeeper follows the story of Rachel Wilde, Daemon Collector, as she does her job collecting defecting daemons and submitting them for correction. When she misses assignment day she gets stuck with the worst undertaking she has ever had: hunting down a person who has been trying to break through to the other dimension and finding a missing gatekeeper. Not only are these assignments unwanted but they turn out to be more dangerous than Rachel expected. In Gatekeeper, Rachel Levy asks us to explore a world of different dimensions, one where other beings exist.
Levy does a good job accomplishing that with this book, for the most part. The characters in this story are really interesting, starting with Rachel. Just a daemon collector trying to do her job, she gets thrust into a an unexpected and difficult situation when her most recent targets turn out to be more work than she anticipated. But Rachel is a badass, and she resourceful, and it is her actions and decisions that drive the plot. I very much enjoyed Rachel as the main protagonist. The other character the reader gets a lot of exposure to is the human who is trying to break through the barrier to the other dimension, even getting a few chapter sections from his point of view. This was a good development, because it gives the reader a little bit of a break from the single point of view and adds dimension to the story.
As for the rest of the characters, the daemon Rachel finds has an interesting effect on the story, it ends up having an important impact. Same goes for the gatekeeper and the Oracle (another character Rachel meets along the way): they all have small but significant roles in the course of the plot. There were times where I wished I had a little more background on these characters, a little more depth, but I also think Levy does a nice job of highlighting every character’s importance. Even if they do not get much page time.
Along those same lines, I feel similarly about the story itself. It is short, and I think there is room for some world-building. But, the story that we do get does not waste a page. Every plot point is important, nothing gets phoned in. It is also a very unique narrative. I am not sure I have read anything like it before. In the year 2020, differentiated ideas are hard to come by, so it is not often I say a book is one-of-a-kind. Gatekeeper is such a book, and that is a pretty big compliment.
Overall, this was a really good debut for Levy. While it may be a short novel, Gatekeeper packs a punch, and there is definitely enough intrigue for me to want to keep reading the series. I recommend this book for fantasy fans who are looking for something different.