REVIEW: The Pomegranate Gate by Ariel Kaplan

Ariel Kaplan isn’t a name that is widely known, but The Pomegranate Gate is set to change that. Set in a world heavily inspired by fifteenth century Spain, its Inquisition and antisemitic culture, this is a poetic fantasy novel steeped in darkness. It combines lyrical writing with meticulous world-building and brilliant characters and douses it all with a good dose of magic – all the ingredients for a breakout success in the genre. Reminiscent of Ava Reid’s The Wolf and the Woodsman and Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January in very different ways, The Pomegranate Gate stands out both thematically and through its writing. I loved it and am looking forward to continuing on with the story in the next instalment.

Cover of The Pomegranate GateToba Peres has always been different in ways she couldn’t quite figure out. Naftaly Peres is lost in dreams. But they are also very different in a tangible way: they are Jews in a hostile way. When the Queen of Serafad, in a world more than slightly reminiscent of fifteenth-century Spain orders all of her nation’s Jews to leave or convert, Toba and Naftaly are forced to flee along with their families. Separated from their caravan by chance, Toba is further drawn away by a mysterious stranger and enters a second world through a pomegranate gate. There, she finds answers, but also far more than she bargained for, as her fate – and that of Naftaly – are bound in conflicts far greater than their individual lives, and sorrow, heartbreak and a rocky road awaits them.

As a bookish nerd, I loved reading about Toba. She is one of us at heart, curious, determined and never happier than when she has her nose in a book. Her character arc has her working in a library for large stretches of time, and it is wonderful to read along as she falls into a new world, a new side to herself and partially makes sense of things by holding on to the one thing that is a constant when everything else changes: books. It feels like a serendipitous parallel. I also thoroughly enjoyed Naftaly as a far more grounded, practical character, a tailor used to figuring out solutions based on the physical objects in front of his eyes rather than thinking too far. Still, he is a dreamer, a dreamer in both literal and metaphorical sense, giving him dimension and depth. Together, they made for great reading, varied story-telling and engaging perspectives.

While this mostly sounds rather wholesome, rest assured that there is plenty of meat to enjoy for lovers of the (grim)dark variety of stories. Set in two worlds, the one based on history is very much a Grimdark one – full of danger and prosecution, stacked against our characters. That isn’t to say that the world past the pomegranate gates is any lighter. Danger and betrayal abound there too and Toba especially has to contend with people who should by all rights be on her side intent on destroying her. It is a strong novel with brilliant, lyrical writing, appealing to readers across the fantasy genre. And personally, I need the follow-up desperately.

Read The Pomegranate Gate by Ariel Kaplan

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Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne can usually be found with her nose in a book or two. Most of her life revolves around words, be that reading, writing, or editing. You can find more of her ramblings over on www.libridraconis.com, where she also reviews YA books and more lighthearted Fantasy and Science Fiction, as @FLSchwizer on Twitter, and @libri_draconis on Instagram. If you're curious about what she is currently reading, check out www.goodreads.com/libridraconis.