CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 24. . . .March 3, 2017
Crystal Storm. (Falling Kingdoms, Book 5).
New York, NY: Razorbill (Distributed in Canada by Penguin Canada), 2017.
379 pp., hardcover, $24.99.
Kings and rulers-Fiction.
Grades 8-11 / Ages 13-16.
Review by Kim Aippersbach.
Thankful for her layers of skirts, which helped hide the quivering of her knees, Amara moved closer to the flames. With more caution than she’d ever applied to any task before, she peered into them. Seeing nothing but all-consuming flames, she moved closer, until she could feel the heat threatening to singe her skin. Then... there it was. She swore she could see something—someone—looking back at her. A shriek escaped her throat as she scrambled back from the fire. She reached for the chair behind her to keep from toppling over.
“I am Kyan,” the face in the flames told her. “I am the god of fire, released from my amber prison. And I can help you find what you seek.”
Amara’s whole body trembled. She was certain this had to be an illusion, a dream. She tentatively reached toward the flames, feeling the palpable heat, and tried to speak with the boldness she needed to shield her fear.
“You...” she began, her voice hoarse. “You are the fire Kindred.”
Amara felt like her entire world had shifted. “You can speak,” she managed to say.
“I assure you, I can do much more than that. Tell me, little empress, what is it that you want?”
Crystal Storm is the fifth book in the “Falling Kingdoms” series. Told from the points of view of five different characters, it continues the story of a struggle for power between four factions and each character’s search for magical help to overcome their enemies.
Three characters who appeared to die at the end of the previous book, Frozen Tides, show up alive at the beginning of this one: King Gaius survives his fall from a cliff and convinces Magnus and Cleo that he wants to help them defeat Amara; Amara’s brother Ashur has used a resurrection potion to survive her killing him, and he convinces Jonas and his rebel friends that they need him to defeat Amara; Kyan, the fire Kindred, had his body destroyed but now turns to Amara and convinces her he can help her consolidate her power.
Enemies find they have to work together, and characters change real and apparent allegiances several times before the climactic scene where Gaius’s mother Selia is revealed as the manipulator who betrays everyone to release Kyan and the other Kindred and give them bodies to inhabit. Her plan is partially thwarted, however, leading to a cliffhanger ending that would be more tense if there were fewer precedents for characters coming back from the dead.
Crystal Storm is full of the juicy romance, witty banter, violent action and sudden reversals and betrayals that thrill fans of romantic YA fantasy. After a slow start to introduce each character’s new team and goal, the plot is fast-paced and exciting, contrived to create as many gasp-worthy moments as possible.
The characters are developed as far as they need to be to fill their roles in the plot. Alternating between so many points of view makes deep character development difficult; instead, the characters’ feelings and motivations are explained just enough to drive the next bit of action. Since — whatever their political motivations — they are all seeking a reason for existing, an understanding of their place in the world, and love and acceptance from their families and friends, they are naturally sympathetic.
The writing is often stilted, and the dialog is often contrived. World-building is perfunctory at best. The narrative pace is somewhat choppy due to the alternation between points of view, but there is always enough tension to keep the reader turning the pages.
Readers who loved the first four books will need to read the fifth and will then be desperate for the sixth, but this book will make no sense to those who haven’t read the first four. The series as a whole is not the best-written of this genre, but it appears to be popular.
Recommended with Reservations.
Kim Aippersbach, a writer, editor and mother of three, lives in Vancouver, BC.
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