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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Crystals of Empire Trilogy by M. Poyhonen is a compilation of three fantasy fiction novels in a single volume and includes Kazi Boku, Crystals of Power, and Angus Town. Kazi Boku, the son of farmers, is a young boy in a duchy called Vissing. It is a communal living. Kazi is well-liked and has a very dear friend named Tsian Zin that he spends his free time with. An attack by a bear on retired soldier and intellect Jabar's pigs sets off the catalyst for the overriding arc when one tragedy gives way to a reader's understanding of the fantasy elements of the novel. In particular, Tyrus Hammersvold, the High Priest of the Temple of Kaal, and the lengths he is willing to go to retake Vissing. This is the first of many tragedies as Kazi navigates the path he is destined for. It is laden with love, loss, hardship, healing, a wide world of different races and species with their own religious and cultural designs, and crystals that can do far more good than what Tyrus uses them for.
There is a ton of trust that a reader puts into an author when they embark on a new fantasy series. New realms and regions, social and political structures, the order of magic, and even some new languages. I admit that it took a hot minute for me to get into Crystals of the Empire Trilogy but not for lack of any clarity on the aforementioned, but because it has been a long, long time since I have read a novel like this that is written as literary fiction. The prose absolutely sings. Kazi Boku is a likable, imperfectly perfect protagonist. He's not afraid of hard, honest work and because he does not come from a place of corruption he is almost immune to it, and the disparity between the life he once knew and the lives of those he interacts with, and their motives, are magnified. Tsian Zin is equally well crafted as a companion and one of the best parts of M. Poyhonen's writing is that he does not leave any loose ends untied. A coming-of-age adventure of massive consequence comes full circle almost to the point where it began. “...Kazi still remembered and felt lucky to have practiced those games involving stealth, perception, and perseverance. This excursion, however, was the first time Kazi felt keenly aware he lived in the place of the hunted.” Very highly recommended.