Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Crystal Castle by John D. Ashton
Title: Crystal Castle
Gabriel sits by his fire awaiting the arrival of each member of his fellowship. They do not know of him nor of the epic journey that lies ahead. Brought together by forces unknown, they travel across the vast landscape of New Earth on their quest to bring to an end the evil reign of the mysterious Ruler of the Crystal Castle. During their treacherous journey, which is plagued by the cruel, dark power of the Ruler, they find friendship and love, but also suffer great loss and witness untold horrors as they move closer to the infamous Crystal Castle. Gabriel knows that this mission is his fellowship's destiny, but will they be strong enough to succeed?
Crystal Castle intrigued me from the moment I read the blurb. What's not to love about a group of unlikely heroes on an epic quest to destroy evil and save the world? Reminiscent of stories like Lord of the Rings, Sword of Shannara (but I repeat myself), and Mistborn, Crystal Castle is an adventure in the mythic, archetypal sense, with relatable characters and an action-packed story-line.
The setting is New Earth: a conglomeration of desert wastelands, undead swamps, frontier towns, and rugged mountains. The landscape and world-building were probably my favorite elements of the story. Looking back, it's cool how diverse New Earth is - both in its terrain and its residents. I especially liked the western-town/steampunk-esque feel of Silvergold, one of the towns the main characters pass through on their adventures. Kind of made me think of a Dr. Who episode, which was cool.
I also appreciated how the action was realistic and easy to get caught up in (though some of the main characters were surprisingly good with guns). On the whole the action felt real and the fight sequences had a sense of urgency that worked really well.
Overall, this is a great story, and the fact that it's a debut makes it that much more impressive. There were a couple things I would have liked to see more of, though. For one thing, while the romance elements were nice, I felt like they kind of came out of nowhere. I guess sometimes that's how it works, but I would have liked a little more buildup before some of the main characters fell madly in love with each other.
Personally, I also would have appreciated a little more resolution at the end. There were a few questions the story raised that I felt never really got answered (unless I missed it, which is entirely possible). The book is a quick read, which makes it fun. But if the author could have fleshed out some of the story's elements a little more, I think it would have made the novel stronger and more engaging. As an author myself, though, fleshing out the story is something I struggle with, so who am I to point fingers?