'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 2 August 2015

Review: Keeper of the Crystals Series

I was lucky enough to attend the launch for Book 1 in Jess Black's new adventure series, Keeper of the Crystals. So it was with an added sense of expectation that I sat down to read the first two titles. Written for children aged 7 and up, the stories focus on Eve and Oscar, two kids who are thrown together as playmates by virtue of being pretty much the only children in the town where Eve's grandmother lives.

In Book 1, Eve and the Runaway Unicorn, we get to know Eve and Oscar. They're your average kids: if you tell them absolutely, definitely not to do something, there's a strong chance they'll do it anyway!

So, even though Gran's attic is completely off-limits, somehow Eve and Oscar find themselves up there exploring. And when Eve finds a small crystal figurine of a unicorn, that's when the adventures start. The crystal magically transports them to the land of Panthor, where unicorns are now enslaved, the land has turned to desert and the people have been forced to become nomads — all at the hands of a cruel and evil king.

But Eve seems to have a connection with the unicorns, a power that might help to undo the king's actions and restore Panthor to the lush and peaceful land it was before.

In Book 2, Eve and the Fiery Phoenix, Eve and Oscar are once again exploring where they shouldn't when Eve finds a small crystal figurine of a phoenix. This time they're transported to the jungle of Griffid where tigers rule and where, without the song of the phoenix, the sun won't rise and the inhabitants of Griffid will slowly freeze. Can Oscar and Eve find the captured phoenix and help it to sing once more?

These are books with a strong environmental theme. Although set in worlds far removed from our own, the message that we — animal and human — are all interconnected comes across clearly. One ill-considered act can cause long-lasting consequences (fertile landscapes can become deserts; ecosystems can be destroyed), but if we pull together we can work to reverse the damage.

The books aren't preachy, though. The underlying lessons are lightly handled, well wrapped up in magic and adventure. And while little girls will love the resourceful Eve, there's enough action and danger to keep boys hooked as well.

Book 3 in the series, Eve and the Mermaid's Tears, will be published in October 2015.

Title: Eve and the Runaway Unicorn and Eve and the Fiery Phoenix
Author: Jess Black
Illustrator: Celeste Hulme
Publisher: New Frontier Publishing, $14.99 RRP
Publication Date: June 2015 and August 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780957988415 and 9781925059441
For ages: 7+
Type: Junior Fiction