I’ve always enjoyed Sophie Masson‘s books, and it would seem she’s written something of an unofficial trilogy based on the stories of Rapunzel (The Crystal Heart), Cinderella (Moonlight & Ashes) and Beauty and the Beast (Scarlet in the Snow). All of them are based on old familiar fairy tales, but take the opportunity to flesh out the characters and expand the tales into fully-fledged adventures, till they bear very little resemblance to their original sources.
In this case, it’s easy to forget that The Crystal Heart is based on Rapunzel, as after establishing the existence of a young girl trapped in a tower, the story goes in a drastically new direction.
Ten years ago the country of Krainos was at war with the underground realm of Night, a place populated by magical half-human, half-fey creatures known as the feyin. The conflict only ended when a brave Commander realized the Prince of Night’s magical powers were derived from a witch — and once she was captured and locked up in a Tower, the forces of Night were forced to agree to a truce.
Kasper Bator is a young man chosen to join the elite guard that watches over the witch-prisoner, knowing that if she were ever to escape, his country would once more be put in jeopardy. He takes his job very seriously, until the day he discovers that the so-called witch is actually the beautiful daughter of the Prince of Night, a girl called Izola who is condemned to die at the Commander’s hand on her eighteenth birthday.
Facing a crisis of faith, Kasper decides to betray his country and rescue Izolda, knowing it would be death for them both if they’re discovered…
Alternating between the first-person narration of Kasper and Izola, The Crystal Heart’s story follows their escape, their love story, and their attempt to find lasting peace between their two homes — with plenty of challenges thrown in along the way, naturally. Sophie Masson’s prose is always a nice blend of poetic and clear, and I loved her descriptions of Night, with its subterranean cities, lakes and stone forests.
The burgeoning romance between Kasper and Izolda is nice without being particularly swoon-worthy — I give Masson credit for letting the two characters spend time together before they fall in love, but I never really *felt* their devotion to each other, and often their internal dialogue can get a little cheesy.
But the story is pleasant and diverting, and will definitely be enjoyed by those that love retold fairy tales. Just make sure to check out Moonlight & Ashes and Scarlet in the Snow as well, since they’re a step above The Crystal Heart.