The Treasure of Crystal Cave
by Kelsie R. Gates
Westwood Books Publishing

"One will come to save country and kingdom, blown out of a dark night's wind down to Earth like an angel."

Sixteen-year-old Miiliinda, a mysterious being endowed with magical skill, finds herself swept away from her home of Chinnder and thrust into the midst of a great quest for the kingdom of Fen-Milar. After an introductory lament of past trials from the cave explorer, Alaric, Miiliinda elects to join forces with him and traverse the dominion in a daring pursuit to rescue his imprisoned love. Together, the two new friends embark on a mystical scavenger hunt for the long-sought-after and ever-elusive Crystal Cave. The cave is reputed to be the home of unsurpassed riches. And for every chase, competition, and obstacle that the pair overcomes, through each labyrinthine path or ominous cave they search, they come closer to overpowering an oppressive queen and restoring a rightful heir to the throne.

A life of discovering caves quickly becomes a quest to infiltrate the workings of a corrupt society. Triumph can only be achieved through teamwork. Alaric became a cave explorer to quench his desire for wealth and fame, but could his true longings reside in something that he does not wish to own? Could personal connections hold the power to transform and heal and be a force greater than any amount of magic?

This inventive fantasy possesses the traditional fairytale archetypes akin to novels like Christopher Paolini's Eragon or Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard of Earth Sea. The hero, Alaric, and the savior, Miiliinda, are joined by a full cast of characters. Together they comprise a growing army devoted to restoring the land from a dark abuse of power to a healthy and thriving public once again. Their tribe includes townspeople, soldiers, talking beasts, and Alaric's adopted ward and sidekick, Tagg. As they continue their search for riches along the path to truth and justice, Gates' talent for worldbuilding shines as bright as the treasures he describes. He gives his readers vivid descriptions of natural life and surrounding scenery, elaborating on the arduousness of the journey and the clearly expressed passage of time.

It is rare and exciting for a fantasy novel to be relayed through two powerful protagonists working in tandem. The narrative regularly switches perspective between that of Alaric and Miiliinda, as well as ranging from the third person to the first. However, these shifts in the speaker invite confusion at times, and the flow of the tale likely would have been enhanced if the choice had been made to use a single point of view through which to share the story. The author weaves Miiliinda and Alaric's emboldened quest with Fen-Milar's own rich culture, currency, and vast topography. The land, like the malevolent Queen Gurold, is not tame, and it's no easy feat for this team of voyagers to conquer either force of nature. Their tale comprises the region's accepted lore and legends, as well as its countless dangers—not only physically but magically as well. Magical persons, plants, and possessions are shown to hold great power, and how this power is utilized influences everything within the realm for good or ill.

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