Crystal Keepers by Brandon Mull
Crystal Keepers (2015) is the third of five installments in Brandon Mull’s FIVE KINGDOMS series for kids. It follows Sky Raiders and Rogue Knight, which you’ll want to read first. There are a couple of spoilers for those novels in this review.
The story is about some middle grade kids who went to a haunted house on Halloween and were kidnapped and sold into slavery in a parallel universe called the Outskirts or the Five Kingdoms. Cole Randolph, a classmate of the kidnapped kids, managed to hide from the kidnappers and follow his friends into the Outskirts. He’s been trying to find them, save them from slavery, and return to Earth.
This is no easy task because (1) his friends have been dispersed across the five kingdoms and he doesn’t know where they are and (2) he’s been told that it’s impossible to return home without very quickly being brought back to the Five Kingdoms… Well, there are actually more problems than these, but that’s enough for now.
In Sky Raiders, Cole met a girl named Mira, a princess who’s been hiding from her father and his evil minions for years. Mira’s sisters are also in hiding and they’re distributed across the kingdoms just like Cole’s friends are. Cole has decided that his best option is to stick with Mira and help her find her sisters. With a bunch of powerful princesses on his side, he may be able to find his friends and get back home.
Since I mentioned that Crystal Keepers is the third of five installments in the FIVE KINGDOMS series, you’d be correct to guess that each book takes place in one of the kingdoms. The magic works differently in each place. This time we’re in Zeropolis, the only kingdom that has high technology. This technology makes travel easier, and it’s entertaining, but it also allows the government to surveil and monitor the activity of all the citizens and visitors. That makes it difficult for Cole and his companions to find people who can help them without being noticed by their enemies.
The kids have a big adventure in Zeropolis which is my favorite kingdom so far. During the course of the story, we learn more about the history of the outskirts, certain characters’ backstories, the dangerous plots going on at the highest levels, how some of the magic works, and we discover a prophecy involving Cole. We also get a little closer to reuniting the princesses and Cole’s friends. Friendship and loyalty continues to be a theme, and this novel includes some introductory lessons about artificial intelligence.
Crystal Keepers is an exciting adventure with endearing characters. Cole’s best friend Dalton, who was rescued in the previous book, is a welcome addition to the cast. We’ve lost Twitch, for now, because he’s gone back to his own village with the Rogue Knight we met in the last book. There’s another important addition to Cole’s team in Crystal Keepers that shocked and delighted me.
Some of the dialogue and plot points in Crystal Keepers are a little repetitive and, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s occasionally hard to suspend disbelief. For example, people on Earth don’t remember the kids who were taken to the outskirts. Parents don’t notice the kids’ unused bedrooms and stuff they left behind, and teachers don’t notice the names on their rolls or empty desks in the classroom. This was a stumbling block for me, but I still enjoyed the story. I care about Cole and his friends and want to see them get back home. (The issue about parents forgetting their kids is explained, not quite satisfactorily, in the last book.)
The next novel is Death Weavers. I continue to listen to Simon & Schuster Audio’s version read by the talented Keith Nobb.
These sound fun!
Did you watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer? I’m asking because the season that introduced Dawn also introduced villain Glory, who was a god trapped part of the time in the body of a human man, Ben. Glory was so powerful that even if she transformed from herself into Ben right in front of you, you would have no memory of it. Only vampire Spike was immune and he spent at least two episodes shouting “Ben is Glory!” and people couldn’t hear him.