I received a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
The Crystal Scepter is based on the myth of Perseus and the Gorgon with many other details added. The book follows Pythius, the king of Paladya, who seeks immortal or lengthened life via a fabled crystal scepter found in Elysiel. To accomplish his goal, he marries Calli (a young woman from Elysiel). When she becomes pregnant and too sick to travel to Elysiel with him, he goes himself, meeting a gorgon in disguise and obtaining the crystal scepter. But his plan does not run smoothly. The scepter scars his hand, making it stiff and burning, and he can’t figure out how to wield it. To make matters worse, a prophesy has declared that his own son will kill him, just as he killed his father. Hearing the prophesy, he decides to kill his newborn son. Calli, learning of his plan just in time, sends the infant across the ocean in a trunk. The boy is found by a fisherman, who decides to raise the child as Perthin. It’s up to Perthin to discover his true identity and fulfill the destiny foretold by the seer.
The best part of this book is the plot: it’s engaging and inherently interesting. Pythius’s evil motives will keep you turning the page to see what happens next, and Calli’s situation is sympathetic enough that readers will care what happens to her. The actual telling of the story was a bit weaker than the plot, however. The first quarter of the book, I felt, contained a bit too much “telling” and background information about Calli’s homeland and the history of some of the people and places. This could just be a personal preference, though, as I tend to lose patience while reading fantasy books with too much back-story. About a quarter of the way in, I found the plot had picked up enough that I was turning pages without realizing it.
Because of the complex plot, the book switches from one character to the next. We follow Pythius as he travels to Elysiel to usurp the scepter. Then we shift to Calli as she dotes on her new-born babe. I did feel, however, that I wanted to stick with one character for a bit longer. As soon as I started to settle in to one character’s story, the perspective would switch. Again, this is a personal preference (I haven’t even attempted to read Game of Thrones yet for just this reason!). The first 140 pages comprise Part One, telling the tale of Perthin’s parents. Part Two picks up with Perth at age 15 (and noticeably smaller than the other boys) but with a heart many times as big. I enjoyed Part Two much more than the first part. I found myself turning the pages quickly and burning through the story into Part Three. The ending, which I will not give away here, was enjoyable as well.
Overall, an interesting mix of mythology, religion, and fiction.