Synopsis from Goodreads: There stands a twisted tower.. hidden in the Windhome Mountains. Something is imprisoned there – the Sisterhood of Stars does not know precisely what, but something is bound tight with a wizard’s spell so that it can never escape again. Kayl is one of the few to have looked upon the Twisted Tower. She has no desire to see it again – she left the Sisterhood long ago, settling down to a quiet life. Her sword lies unused in a secret place beneath the stones of her hearth. But something evil is leaking from the Tower. And now a sorceress and a wizard have appeared on Kayl’s doorstep, demanding she take up the sword again.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: Caught in Crystal is the fourth book in Patricia Wrede’s Lyra series and picks up ten years after Kayl’s husband Kevran has died. Kayl is struggling to maintain her inn and raise to two children; the work is difficult but she and her children are safe and the secret of her past life as a member of the Sisterhood of Stars is still firmly buried in the past. That is, until the day Corrana, a tall dark-haired woman with a silver star on her robes walks into Kayl’s inn and tells the innkeeper it is time to return to the Twisted Tower. Suddenly, Kayl’s past comes crashing down around her and she finds herself on the run with her children, a wizard, and Corrana and headed toward a fate that is sixteen years in the making.
For six months, Kayl and her companions travel from her small town back to Kith Alunel a place Kayl thought and hoped she would never have to return or expose her children too. One of my very, very few complaints about this novel is the long journey Kayl and her companions undertake. Nearly the entire first half of the novel is occupied with this journey and at times the story has a tendency to drag. To be completely honest, in most books with such a slow pace, I would have given up but Wrede’s characters are so good, especially Kayl, that I never could bring myself to stop reading. I was sincerely drawn to Kayl and wanted to know how her story ends. In fact, Kayl is Caught in Crystal’s greatest strength: she is physically strong, a well-trained fighter; she is a master strategist; she is fiercely loyal to those who have earned it; and absolutely endearing when dealing with her children.
The story really begins to pick up in the second half of the novel: Kayl has resigned herself to the fact that she must confront her past with the Sisterhood head on; she must return to the ominous Twisted Tower; she must accept that her children are as involved as she is and; she must acknowledge her feelings for her old friend, the wizard Glyndon. As the group makes their way to the Twisted Tower the reader learns more of the secrets carried by each member of the travelling party and their ulterior motives. There is also a significant amount of action in this part of the novel which, when coupled with all the secrets, makes for a swift ride to the dramatic finish. There is magic and fighting and palpable tension that makes the end well worth the slow pace of the first part of the novel.
The bottom line: I never like reading a series out of order but this book can be easily read as a stand-alone. The characters and plot are both strong and based on this, I have decided to take a look back at the previous books in the Lyra series. Wrede has an easy writing style and excellent skill with dialogue that can satisfactorily carry the reader through the slower parts of the novel. While this book is classified as a Young Adult novel, it will certainly appeal to an older reading audience as well; especially those who are partial to the light fantasy genre.