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“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
― Voltaire

Caught in Crystal - Patricia C. Wrede I read Caught in Crystal strictly because of The Raven Ring: A Lyra Novel. Unfortunately, this book doesn't measure up to Ring, or even to Wrede's other works. While the world of Lyra is interesting with it's racial tensions and the sense that deep change is underway, the plot of Crystal is unevenly developed. In retrospect, the setting strongly reminds me of Andre Norton's Witch World series, full of nostalgia for an era gone by, and a group of sorcerous women fighting against eagle-helmed men. Caught is particularly unusual in the realm of fantasy for having a heroine who is a widowed mother with two younger children. While it's an interesting twist, it brings a jarring note of everyday reality into the fantasy--sometimes while reading, I felt like the dialogue was incongruous, taken from television rather than the setting of Lyra. Names reflected this incongruity as well--while everyone else has more unusual names that you wouldn't find in a baby dictionary, Kayl's children are 'Mark' and 'Dara;' perfectly good names, but lending that aura of modernity to the tale. Was this Wrede's homage to two children she knew? In Ring, Wrede is able to develop an atmosphere of tension and danger, while the danger in Crystal feels half-hearted and incompletely realized. It just wasn't that frightening, perhaps because the children were never particularly frightened either, even as they fled their inn and home. Strangers in the city are menacing, but never for more than a few minutes at a time. Pacing is terribly uneven; after fleeing their home, a journey of six months is over in two pages, a journey that should include self-reflection, growth as the children learn about their parents' heritages and interactions with a potentially hostile Sorceress. Awkwardly framed flashbacks give insight into Kayl's earlier life as a warrior, the team of women she worked with and her first encounters with her husband. Still more awkward Prologue and Interludes between sections attempt to nutshell the complex history of Lyra, giving rise to the feeling of uneven pace and development. Overall, it just was not up to the level of quality in Ring, or in Wrede's Enchanted Forest series. Truly while I would like to rate this higher in fondness to Wrede, it was a "meh" level book for me. Skip this and read The Raven Ring: A Lyra Novel instead; it's far more developed and enjoyable.