Crystal Keepers is the third book in a series by Brandon Mull called Five Kingdoms. In it, the twelve-year-old main character, Cole Randolph, finds himself in a variety of dangerous situations as he wanders a world he stumbled into from Earth called the Outskirts, which can be best described as a world between dimensions. I’ve already read the first two books so I certainly wasn’t lost and I am very familiar with Brandon Mull’s work as I have been reading his books consistently since one of his first series, Fablehaven. However, this isn’t his best work.
While the writing style was still very good, I noticed from the very beginning of the series that it seemed toned down compared to Mull’s earlier works. I can see the argument being made about this being from the point of view of a twelve-year-old while earlier series such as Beyonders focused on more teenaged protagonists. However, I personally think that he may be seriously underestimating a middle schooler’s comprehension of the world around them. Not to mention that the dialogue feels cluttered with needless exposition and there are far too many moments spent talking and time wasting when the characters should be moving.
Then there is the main character hinself. While I really do like Cole Randolph, and find myself rooting for him a majority of the time, he seems a bit…generic. In Crystal Keepers alone I noticed Cole flip-flop between brazenly confident and wildly insecure. It almost seems as if Mull can’t make up his mind about whether to make Cole just a kid trying to survive or someone who is skillful and confident enough to be considered dangerous by his enemies. Personally, I’d prefer the latter and it was those types of moments that left me rooting for the victory of the main character.
Plotwise, Crystal Keepers was also fairly predictable. There were great action scenes, but many of them ended rather anticlimactically, the final battle of the book being the prime example of that. Even the last line of this book felt weak compared to the ending of the preceding two books. Mull also planted a twist in Crystal Keepers that, honestly, wasn’t all that shocking to me. It was certainly an interesting turn of events, but reading it did not leave me in anyway surprised as Mull no doubt intended. Also, the twist itself is kind of cliche.
Overall, Crystal Keepers, is an entertaining read and I’m certainly going to continue reading this series. Even if it’s not the best Mull has done, I still thoroughly enjoy it. However, I probably won’t be quite as invested in this especially since I already know there will be a happy ending as per Mull’s usual pattern.