A story within a story, The Gift is a story of innocence betrayed and magic rejected. Tim is robbed of his childhood, and Simon is tormented by hearing made too acute. Both are victims of The User of the Night, once a boy like them, now pathetically twisted by his own ambition and by Tomen, a malevolent creature of magic. Together Simon and Tim must rid their land of the magic that has been misused by Tomen and The User.
The Gift is the second book from up-and-coming author Patrick O’Leary, and is quite a departure from his wonderful and zany first novel, Door Number Three. The Gift is largely a dark fantasy novel, focusing on a world where magic and storytelling hold sway, although there are some distinctive science fiction overtones. The protagonists are a young king named Simon, who has lost his hearing, and a young woodcutter named Tim, who has lost his family. Both are on a similar quest: they’re attempting to find and destroy The Usher of Night, a twisted sorcerer who has unleashed an ancient evil, and who has caused both men great suffering. Although the quest might make this novel sound like a conventional fantasy, it’s anything but. O’Leary clearly shows that he enjoys bending genre boundaries as much as he enjoys telling a good story.