fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Crystal City by Orson Scott Card fantasy book reviewsThe Crystal City by Orson Scott Card

The Crystal City is the (maybe) final novel in Orson Scott Card’s TALES OF ALVIN MAKER. This series started off strongly with Seventh Son and Red Prophet, but it bogged down during books three and four (Prentice Alvin and Alvin Journeyman) and I was ready to give up. However, since I had already downloaded the audio version of the sixth book, The Crystal City, from my library, I decided to finish the series. (My library didn’t have the fifth book, Heartfire, so I just read a plot summary of that one.)

Alvin and Peggy are married and have lost a child. Alvin continues his work as a Maker, trying to prepare people for his Crystal City, while Peggy is trying to end slavery. Alvin and Arthur are now in New Orleans. When Alvin heals a woman with yellow fever, she is well enough to go outside and spread it among the city, starting a plague. Alvin tries to heal as many as he can and, in the process, is suspected of witchery. It’s looking like a good time to leave New Orleans, so when a woman asks Alvin to lead thousands of runaway slaves and French refugees across the Mississippi river to freedom, he agrees to do it.

Thus The Crystal City is the Exodus story and Alvin is both a Moses figure and a Jesus figure. He teams up with his old friend Tenskwa-Tawa, the Red Prophet, to lead 5,000 people out of slavery and into the promised land. Other highlights include the introductions of Jim Bowie and Abraham Lincoln and, finally, Alvin’s dawning understanding of his purpose and the beginnings of the crystal city.

The Crystal City was hard to get through for the same reason I had trouble with books three and four in this series. The plot drags because there’s too much brooding interior monologue and far too much teasing banter amongst the characters. Almost every conversation on nearly every page of the novel is snarky or sarcastic. This is usually playful (e.g.,” I hope I grow up to be as perfect as you!”) and it feels very realistic, but it becomes incredibly boring after listening to it for so long during this series. I had to skim some of it in order to finish The Crystal City. I listened to the audio version, so basically I sped up the narration to about triple the normal rate in parts, especially the dialogue. The Blackstone audio versions are very good, by the way, though I always had to speed them up. The narrator Stephen Hoye is particularly excellent in this series.

It’s not clear whether there will be any more books in the TALES OF ALVIN MAKER series. The ending is open and some readers will be disappointed that it doesn’t tie up all the loose ends. I’m at the point that I don’t care. Either way, I’m done with Alvin Maker.

The Tales of Alvin Maker — (1987-2003) Young Adult. Historical Fantasy. Available from Audible. Publisher: From the author of Ender’s Game, an unforgettable story about young Alvin Maker: the seventh son of a seventh son. Born into an alternative frontier America where life is hard and folk magic is real, Alvin is gifted with the power. He must learn to use his gift wisely. But dark forces are arrayed against Alvin, and only a young girl with second sight can protect him.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Orson Scott Card The Tales of Alvin Maker: Seventh Son, Red Prophet, Prentice Alvin, Alvin Journeyman, Heartfire, The Crystal City


  • 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.

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