Title: The Silver Crystal
Author: Ryan Lanz
One day is all it takes…
As a bounty hunter, Rhael chases down the Corrupted, people with unnatural abilities too powerful for the rest of society—something he learned firsthand when they killed his father years ago. But when Rhael and his crew are ambushed by the very people they were sent to capture, it changes everything.
Phessipi leads a desperate group of rebels who are fighting for their lives just as much as their freedom. Any day now, a group of bounty hunters could swoop down on them. They all look to her for answers, but keeping one step ahead of The Order might be more than she can handle.
Levas wants peace and order under the ruling class, something he’s devoted his life of service to, but the threat of a rebel uprising might be enough to upend the world he’s worked so hard to keep together. As the leader of the army, he’s always tried to be honorable, but with how fast things are changing, he might not be able to do that much longer.
This is a book I’ve been delighted to help with (these days, all my favorite authors are people I know and whose books I’m honored to get to work on), but as usual, we’re going to run it through the same book review rubric as always. Here’s how it stacks up!
Narration: 4 out of 5. The narration is pretty straightforward, to where you have enough details to navigate the world but not enough to lose yourself in any specific location. This can be a positive for readers who would rather hear what people are doing than where they are and what they’re seeing, but it can make the settings feel a bit similar—to where events happen on another street, another section of forest instead of occurring in a unique, identifiable part of the country. (But for everyone who couldn’t stand Tolkien because of his long descriptions—this type of narration is for you!) 🙂
Content: 5 out of 5. The story provides a solid adventure while making it clear there is much, much more to see and experience next time. The plotting is realistic without being slow, and by showing many characters’ threads, you get a deeper sense of what it’d be like to live in this world, with our without abilities. Personally, I appreciated that Ryan doesn’t try to make this story something it isn’t in terms of “adding adult content” just for marketing or to match where many stories are going in the genre, reminding me more of older fantasy stories like “The Sword of Shannara” than “A Game of Thrones.” Thus, there’s more “good old fashioned adventuring” than political intrigue and backstabbing and nothing a teenager couldn’t read, though the characters are all adults.
Characters: 5 out of 5. This is one of the story’s strongest points. Not only do we get to see Rhael and the challenges he faces as a humane and relatable leader to a group of bounty hunters, but we also get to experience the viewpoint of Morrith, a heartless cutthroat working for him, and Umra, a troubled woman who just wants to be left alone so she can live with her daughter in peace. We get to know Phessipi, the leader of the rebels who’d love to destroy The Order, and Levas, the honorable leader of the army who is devoted to The Order and to keeping society protected through its decrees. We also have the fun, ever-curious Gobo, who greets the whole world with open arms and a head full of questions.
Thanks to the range of characters, there’s something for every reader—someone you’re bound to find appealing on a personal level, so if the world-building doesn’t snag your attention, the characters will.
Artwork: Subjective. The cover is gorgeous—but not necessarily the way I pictured the city of Abalreen. This could be a symbolic version, though, to where, in Rhael’s imagination, there is a chasm between him and the city after some of the events in the book take place and even though the city is describe as being near woods and on relatively flat land, it no longer feels that way in his mind. The size of the sun supports a metaphorical view, to where this is more about how he feels than an exact image of what it’ll be like, going back. But accuracy aside, it beautifully captures the fantasy feel of the story and the power The Order has, and I can’t wait to have a copy on my bookshelf. J
World-Building: 5 out of 5. This is another area where The Silver Crystal shines (pun only slightly intended). The book provides such an interesting examination of the “haves and have-nots,” with so many angles to consider about what it’d be like to live in this world and how one would respond to knowing your neighbors might have an ability that could burn your house down or blow your crops over. Ryan does a great job making the world feel genuine, to where you could easily believe a group like The Order would spring up, trying to sort out how people interact and trying to keep the peace while those who have abilities could easily become marginalized, distrusted, and hunted down. I can’t wait to learn more about the Red Kingdom and why The Order works the way it does.
Overall Response: 19.5 out of 20, or 4.75 overall. This story is ideal for fantasy lovers who gravitate towards adventure, fun character interactions, and an intriguingly realistic world. The pacing gives you time to enjoy and understand what’s happening while providing plenty of tension to keep the story moving, and by the end, you deeply care about the characters and how they’re going to navigate the future in a world where “just living” can be a crime. A fascinating read and one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in years!
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Copyright 2021 Andrea Lundgren