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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Desperately Seeking Substance

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

What do you do when summer vacation means big adventures for everyone ... but you? If you're Samantha Costas, star of Ben Furman's Sam's Quest for the Crimson Crystal, you take matters into your own hands.

Once again, Sam's archaeologist parents are spending the summer searching for the lost city of Atlantis. Once again, Sam will be stuck on her grandpa's isolated farm. She enjoys time spent with the old man and his friendly dog Patch, but a whole summer? With no t.v., no malls, no movies, she will go out of her mind with boredom ... unless she finds an adventure of her own. Before she knows it, Sam finds her wish fulfilled - she's shimmying down a hole in the ground, following a boy about the size of her thumb into his mysterious underground world.

Sam has always felt a connection with Mile-High Mountain, which looms over her grandfather's property, and now she understands why. Buzz, her miniature guide, explains that the Costas Family has always protected his people, the Awoks. Now the mountain dwellers are under siege from the repugnant Zogs. Buzz pleads for help. When Sam protests that she's not a hero, just an ordinary girl, he tells her about an ancient prophecy claiming a redheaded Costas with a diamond-shaped birthmark will save the Awoks. The prophecy seems to point directly at her, but can she really save the gentle people from the formiddable Zogs? Can she really find the crystal that seems to be the key to their survival?

With the help of Buzz and Patch, Sam takes on the quest. It's a journey that will take her into the mysterious mountain where moths are pets, people communicate with color, and dragonflies act as royal coaches. She will also venture into the mountain's sinister underworld where a ferocious Zog plots not only to kill Sam, but also to claim the thrones of all the mountain worlds. Can she survive long enough to find the crystal, defeat the Zogs and save the Awoks? She's not sure, but she's willing to try, even if it means giving her life. After all, that's what a great adventure is all about.

Sam's Quest for the Crimson Crystal offers a decent, if predictable, plot. It's fast, fun and somewhat original. The writing isn't especially vibrant, the characters don't leap off the page, but it's really not a bad little story. I enjoyed the mountain land Furman created, especially the idea of the Awoks "auras" - or the idea that they communicate as much with color as with words. Such spots of originality make the novel's plot holes and contrived happenings less noticeable, although I still found them distracting. What I really wanted was more substance - more interesting characters, a meatier plot and a compelling reason for Sam to risk her life for people she barely knows. Sam's Quest for the Crimson Crystal is not bad, but, let's be clear - I'm not clearing my schedule so I can devour the next book in the series.

Grade: C

1 comment:

  1. I discovered your blog through another blog by a favorite author - Poisoned Pen Letters. I also do a blog ( and have been asked about doing a book giveaway. What has been your experience with this?


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