By James Funfer
Published by Branch Hill Publications
The country of Novem is in a dire state of affairs. Still recovering from a great war in which they were the aggressor, an economic depression has swept the continent and leaves Novem in the throes of poverty. The republic struggles to hold back a revolution, but strong socialist sentiments threaten Novem’s stability, and many seek to return Novem to its former glory as a powerful totalitarian empire.
Novem runs on crystals mined from the ground, but many consider them to be more than just a power source. The Church of Novem worships a ‘Great Crystal’, which is thought to be a liaison between the gods and humanity. Those who can alter crystals at will, known as crystal-speakers, are an important part of that link between the earth and the divine.
For finishing school students Jacoby, Timori, Racquela and Crystara, concerns about revolutions and the church are overshadowed by school, dances, sports and summer vacations. But when the Great Crystal selects its arranged marriages that year, a chain of events is set into motion that threatens to upset the entire nation. Betrothal promises are made with rings of crystal, but if they shatter, hearts are not the only things that will break…
One of my favorite things about Crystal Promise, the urban fantasy by debut author James Funfer, is how all the relationships blossom into newlywed style bliss, only to be pulled apart slowly and painfully. At first it really seems like the holy relic known as the Great Crystal put together the perfect teen couples. Rich and poor were matched as Timori and Racquel, and they’re both romantics. Jacoby the rags to riches lady’s man was placed with Crystara, the blonde wallflower with a brain. And the inert Paulo was joined with the fun loving and kind Lenara.
Then the love triangles start, and even though I know the story just isn’t going to end well, I can’t help but keep watching. It’s like that morbid curiosity we all get as we drive by a horrific car accident. And it’s not just the interactions between the couple that work well. Even the scenes with odd ball teachers and certain high officials within the world clergy are both imaginative and believable. My heart, however, remains with a certain couple that is destined for destruction.
Even though the interactions are great, the novel does take a moment to get into and it’s not helped with a few of the more pronounce seguing issue. Luckily this is really only seen in the earlier chapters. The other things that could hinder this novel are Funfer’s word choices. There are times where he goes for the more eloquent word like ‘regaled’ and phrases like ‘bell pealed’ or ‘foreboding sense of gravitas’, and these could cost him some of the more younger audience that simply want an entertaining book and not something that’ll teach them new vocabulary. I am glad that the author put in more of an international flavor with the mention of football that needs goal tending (soccer).
There is some really good stuff here for the adult reader that wants more than just teen nonsense. The political story is well built into the world and easily identifiable with our current economic state. And some teenagers might like it as well.
The last thing I’d like to touch upon is the ending. As this is the first in its series, we’re expecting some sort of to-be-continued ending, which it does have. However James works a great feat here by allowing the story to feel complete for the reader despite its cliff hanger ending. That’s not easy folks.
Score 3 out of 5 stars