A young Gelfling girl discovers hidden evils in this prequel to Jim Henson’s 1982 film The Dark Crystal.
Naia, training to become the matriarch of her clan, has never ventured beyond her swamp home. When her brother’s accused of being a traitor to the Skeksis Lords—creatures entrusted with the care of the life-giving crystal that runs through the world—Naia’s mother sends Naia and her father to stand in his stead. But her father and their escort are (conveniently) harmed, and Naia must travel on alone. On her journey, described in rich prose that paints a vivid picture, including the physical differences among the diverse Gelfling races, Naia discovers all is not well—worst of all, the crystal vein has taken on an amethyst hue, spreading corruption. While Naia and Kylan, a storyteller who becomes her travel partner and friend, are both likable and fallible, the Skeksis all seem interchangeable: disappointingly one-dimensional, gluttonous, and unmannerly. The book ends in a sequel setup. The many new words and concepts in this intricate fantasy world can be overwhelming, though much can be gleaned through context. And while the plot and characters are rather basic, the intriguing world and lush, descriptive, often even flowery prose make up for some of what’s lacking. Godbey’s occasional black-and-white illustrations add atmosphere.
Fans of this first installment will be glad of the movie while waiting for the book’s sequel. (Fantasy. 10-14)