Crystal Shadows: Gripping New Blood (Olympia Publishers, 2020)
By R.J. Parker
It was a dark and stormy night…
No. Really. It was. I, Kimber, was there. And the night wasn’t just “dark and stormy.” Rain was coming down in sheets. Sideways. The wind was howling like a banshee with a tooth ache. A flood watch and a wind advisory were in effect.
“It’s a perfect day to curl up by the fire with a good book,” spake Mom.
Well. Who am I to disagree?
Thankfully, R.J. Parker’s Crystal Shadows: Gripping New Blood filled the bill. Here’s why:
Sarah Field is your average middle schooler just trying to make it through classes at Lon Chaney Jr. High with her posse of Jack, Shaw, and Racheal. She doesn’t remember her mom and lives alone with her dad, a teacher at the school.
Everything’s going well – as well as junior high can go – until her dad pretty much has a meltdown one night. He’s never done anything like this before. What’s going on? What secrets is Dad hiding from Sarah? To whom is her father sneaking food? What about all those weird knocks, slides, clunks and scrapes emanating from the attic? Who are the Odyssey Knights? What’s up with a comet that makes the rounds every few years and a mysterious crystal shard buried under Carfax Abbey? (You might want to look that up.) And what went wrong during that 15th century “business trip” to Transylvania?
Guess what? The comet comes closes to earth every 75 years. Its light can shine on Dracula and his armies of darkness, making them impervious to sunlight. Not good. Cuz world domination is up next. Enter the Telum Deos amulet, a powerful weapon – and pretty much the only weapon – against Dracula and the forces of evil.
Incidentally, how long has Sarah’s family been battling the armies of darkness and why is she…?
Oh, wait. For that, you’ll have to read the book.
Laced with gentle humor and dry wit, Crystal Shadows is delish. The writing is lively and agile, the pace nimble. The plot is a clever blend of history, myth, and legend. And Dracula. Plus a lot of things that go bump in the night. A quick and enjoyable read.
Yes, this book could benefit from another proof-read. The cover art could use some work. But on balance it’s Too. Much. Fun. At just 155 pages, you can polish it off in an afternoon. Without breaking a sweat. It will appeal to middle schoolers/YA audiences or anyone who enjoys a good fantasy on a windy, waterlogged afternoon. Or any time.
Someone say, “sequel”?