The Crystal Heart by Sophie Masson fantasy book reviewsThe Crystal Heart by Sophie Masson fantasy book reviewsThe Crystal Heart by Sophie Masson

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.

Published in 2014. A girl in a tower. An underground kingdom. This retelling of Rapunzel offers a gripping blend of magic, romance, adventure, fairytale, and mystery. When 17-year-old army conscript Kasper Bator is chosen to join the elite guard that keeps watch over a dangerous prisoner in a tower, he believes what he’s been told: the prisoner is a powerful witch. But when he meets the prisoner, Kasper’s life will change forever—for the prisoner is no witch, but a beautiful young girl. The daughter of the country’s enemy, the Prince of Night, Izolda has been held hostage since she was three. And she is in imminent danger, for a prophecy says she must die on her 16th birthday if Krainos is to be saved from the Prince of Night. Kasper decides to help her escape. As the days pass, their friendship turns into real love, but their hiding place won’t stay safe forever.


  • Rebecca Fisher

    REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.