One of the unique perks of being an author is that you tend to have a lot of author friends. These talented men and women are wonderful resources and sources of support. As a way of supporting them back, I try to read as many books from local authors as I reasonably can.
This month’s book review pick is Crystal King by John M. Olsen. For those of you who have been with me here at the blog for a while, he shared an article with us about why adults should read fantasy back in October. When I spotted John’s book at the local library, I had to grab it.
Gavin Stoutheart, throw-away second son of Baron Gerald Stoutheart, grew up believing not much was expected of him. The Barony was secure with his older brother already being groomed to rule. He spends his days avoiding weapons practice and crystal training, much to his mentor’s frustration.
All this changes when an invading army destroys the Royal Council. Gavin’s father and brother are missing and assumed dead as well as much of the leadership of the Kingdom of Riland.
Gavin must step into his father’s role as Baron and lead his people to save them from the army sweeping across the land and destroying everything in its wake. His only hope resides in the use of forbidden animal magic and his knack for strategy.
But will it be enough?
This story did something that few books have managed to do by giving me recurring dreams about the magic system for several nights in a row. I love a unique magic system and in Crystal King, we see a magic system that is both unique and extremely well constructed.
The essence of the magic system revolves around the use of crystals to control animals. While in theory anyone can use this magic, the crystals themselves are expensive and the privilege to use them has been reserved by the army and the ruling class. Much of the conflict in the book revolves around the proper vs improper use of these crystals.
All in all, it’s an interesting story and a good read. The characters are well built and interesting. My favorite character was the mentor, Draken, whose dry wit and unique skill set made him intriguing to read. Although, to be fair, I have a thing for noble caring mentor figures so liking Draken isn’t surprising.
Perhaps my only critical feedback, and it was hard to pin-point anything to be super critical about, comes from how Gavin, the main character, tends to be overly successful against all odds. Before his father’s presumed death, Gavin started out as a flawed character who had issues with motivation and struggled with taking control. As soon as he takes on the title of Baron, all that changes. We do see his struggle, which I really appreciate, but from that point on, all his decisions and the way he handles himself earns him nothing but praise and respect.
This is a straight up coming-of-age fantasy. It’s reasonably fast-paced with enough action to be appealing to teens and up. For those who already love fantasy, the magic system is fascinating.
I recommend this book to fantasy lovers ages twelve and up who like to see the main character succeed despite all challenges and love a cool unique magic system.
I would not recommend this book for those who aren’t fond of the fantasy genre and/or who aren’t fond of books heavy with military strategy and tactics.
I rate this book 4/5 stars for being an excellent and well written novel where I would have liked to see the main character fail a little more.
Psst! Jodi here. Did you enjoy today’s review? Did it help you decide if this book was for you? Cool, eh?
It doesn’t have to be big and long like this one – a few sentences is perfect! Thanks in advance!