Crystal Keepers by Brandon Mull science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsCrystal Keepers by Brandon Mull science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsCrystal 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.

Crystal Keepers by Brandon Mull science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsSince 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.

Published in 2015. Trapped in a world where magic is powerful and dreams are real, Cole continues his quest in book three of this New York Times bestselling “fanciful, action-packed adventure” series (Publishers Weekly, starred review), from the author of the Fablehaven and Beyonders series. Cole Randolph still can’t believe the way his life has been turned inside out. Stuck in a strange land far from home, he found his friend Dalton and has survived the first two kingdoms of the Outskirts. But none of that has prepared him for the magnetic highways and robotic bounty hunters of Zeropolis. Ruled by Abram Trench, the one Grand Shaper who stayed loyal to the evil High King, the government of Zeropolis uses advanced technologies to keep tight control. Luckily, the resistance in Zeropolis is anchored by the Crystal Keepers—a group of young rebels with unique weapons. On the run from the High King’s secret police, Cole and Dalton venture to find more of their lost friends—and help their new friend, Mira, locate her sister Constance. But as their enemies ruthlessly dismantle the resistance, time is running out for Cole to uncover the secrets behind the Zeropolitan government and unravel the mystery of who helped the High King steal his daughters’ powers. Will Cole be able to fix what has gone awry with the magic in The Outskirts, or will he be stranded forever in a world between reality and imagination?


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.