The Crystal Run by Sheila O'Flanagan

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The Crystal Run by Sheila O'Flanagan

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Z J Cookson
Reviewed by Z J Cookson
Summary: A teen fantasy adventure that's written more in the style of an adult book.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 400 Date: May 2016
Publisher: Hodder Children's
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1444927054

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Running away from a couple of bullies, Joe Hunter suddenly finds himself in the strange world of the Carcassian people. Suspected as a terrorist, traitor or spy, he's attached to Kaia and sent to join her on the 'Crystal Run' – a dangerous journey through enemy Kanabian territory to replace the precious crystals that power the protective Carcassian shield. He really wants to return to Earth but he soon finds himself fighting for survival and forming a close friendship with Kaia. Now he has another goal – Kaia will die when she completes her mission and Joe's determined to find a way to keep her alive.

The Crystal Run is written in an unusual style for a children's / teen book. Where third person (using 'he' or 'she' rather than 'I') is used, children's authors usually keep very close to the character whose viewpoint they're writing from. Here, however, we feel distant from Joe and this makes it hard to identify with him. Books for pre-adult readers (apart from those for very young and emerging readers) also tend to rely much more on 'showing' us what is happening and how characters are feeling whereas here the balance is much more in terms of 'telling'. This again makes it hard to be drawn into the story.

Kaia is by far the strongest character and there are times when her personality positively jumps off the page. This is particularly notable in the way she displays her indoctrination and prejudice against the Kanabian people. I especially enjoyed the scene when, after all their efforts to go unnoticed, she draws attention to herself through her determination to dunk the soldiers at the fair. Her feisty and stubborn nature is great but it did make me wonder why, at times, she so easily gives into Joe. For two teens travelling on a strange and dangerous adventure, they get along remarkably well with very few cross words.

The plot is very linear with one event after another. This has worked exceptionally well for some children's authors – Rick Riordan's successful Percy Jackson adventures for middle grade readers being a good example – but I would have expected something more in The Crystal Run given it's aimed at an older audience. There are some great elements in this fantasy setting. I particularly liked the idea of the 'joq' that enables Joe to understand both the Carcassians and the Kanabians, especially the fact that they developed this by experimenting on real people. I also liked the 'link' that joins Kaia and Joe – preventing them from being separated for most of the book – and was, therefore, frustrated when Kaia announces towards the end that she has known the way to sever the link all along. In many ways, the world is a little too like Earth and, for this age of reader, it would have been nice to have a few more distinct differences.

Finally, I found the ending disappointing. I read it twice and wasn't really clear what had happened. How did Joe get home? How did he get back? Where are they going now? Is this a set up for sequel? I had too many questions and would personally prefer a more definite ending. If you enjoy teen fantasy fiction, you should check out the writing of Garth Nix. Why not start with the wonderful Sabriel? Or, the Bookbag, loved Wintercraft by Jenna Burtenshaw.

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Buy The Crystal Run by Sheila O'Flanagan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Crystal Run by Sheila O'Flanagan at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Crystal Run by Sheila O'Flanagan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Crystal Run by Sheila O'Flanagan at


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