Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Legends and the Inca Crystals

by Lia Ginno

Katelin is a Peruvian girl visiting England with her mother so she can be reunited with her father, and meet the rest of his family. Her parents divorced when Katelin was young and her father remarried, so it will be the first time she meets her half-brother and baby sister. Kat is afraid of her father's rejection, and it looks set to be an awkward reunion.

To begin with the story plods along in a mire of domestic trivia, people eating cake, and dull introductions. Kat's younger half-brother Calum takes an immediate dislike to her, and this isn't helped by her uncanny ways. Very early on we learn that she can read minds. But she's not the only one in the family with a magic touch. Calum and his grandparents rig up a laptop with some special crystals Kat's brought from Peru, creating a teleporting device. Then Calum discovers he has peculiar hidden talents of his own. This is all very sparkly and supernatural, but there's absolutely no drama to accompany these discoveries in the early part of the book. Moreover, the magic has no negative consequences for the people using it, unless you count a mild sense of disapproval from Kat's father, Gregg.

It's not until a family member disappears in chapter 7, almost 100 pages in, that there's any kind of tension in the story. By this point Katelin and Calum are so charged with magical powers they could probably take on the whole of the US army without breaking a sweat. There are flying horses, fairies, trolls, and more fantastical elements flying off the page. However what should be wondrous is actually about as enticing as a five-course banquet of cardboard.

The tale is spoilt by some dire storytelling. These are a few of the problems I noticed:
  • Repetitive sentence structures.

  • Random use of commas.

  • Lots of typos and misplaced speech marks.

  • Repetitive storytelling. For instance, we're told several times how Kat feels about her dad, even when her feelings haven't changed.

  • Unrealistic dialogue. What kind of modern boy says "Oh, gosh"?

  • Clumsy sentences, like these on page 151:

    In this spirit world he will be able to rule and have complete control and power. The young man went even whiter and his eyes had a terrified horror glaze to them.

    The first sentence is part of a speech one of the characters is making, so that quote has the added bonus of missing speech marks.

  • A lack of credibility. Even though this is fantasy the description of teleportation by laptop is laughably implausible. The grandparents also seem unusually stupid and irresponsible for testing this mad gadget on living creatures and people.

One or two of these points may seem like nit-picking, but when it's all put together it amounts to the kind of shoddy writing that makes for a very dull story that's far harder to read than it ought to be. It's the kind of thing that could kill a child's burgeoning interest in books stone dead. What's more, The Legends and the Inca Crystals doesn't seem to be about anything. The villain is an evil wizard with the usual designs on power and world destruction, but neither he nor his minions have anything to say. At all. So this isn't a story about a conflict between one set of principles and another, because there's no moral to be teased out when the wicked guy has no voice. He's nothing but the bald excuse for some flashy lights, showy magic and a heap of pointless fighting whilst the story reaches its climax.

So the villain is as cardboard-cut-out as they come, and stands for nothing. I also thought quite a few of the other characters in the book interacted in unrealistic ways. But I won't labour the point: the writing in this novel is awful in more ways than I care to count. This is a haphazard story that's been thrown together without adequate purpose or skill, and it fails.

4th July 2011

Book Details

Year: 2007

Categories: Books

  Kids     Fantasy

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Review © Ros Jackson