The Crystal Key

The Dream Rider Saga, Book 2

Young Adult - Fantasy - Urban
386 Pages
Reviewed on 09/03/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Lexie Fox for Readers' Favorite

The Crystal Key is the second installment in Douglas Smith's The Dream Rider Saga and continues the tale of Will Dreycott, a superhero who cannot leave his home physically but can project himself across dreams. Following the events of the previous installment, Will and his friends are being chased by a swordsman who wants the crystal key, but what is it and why is it so important? Like all great sequels, this story uses the foundations of its predecessor to build its own distinct story and identity as it finds new directions in which to push its characters and new challenges for them to overcome.

Fresh and original ideas are the secret ingredient for urban fantasy novels, especially ones aimed at the highly competitive young adult market. Fortunately for fans of The Hollow Boys, Douglas Smith continues to show a breadth of imagination and originality that once again elevates his work into something unmissable. A particular treat to read is the nuanced depiction of Will’s battle with agoraphobia taking on a new level as he must come to terms with the parts of life that it is denying not just him but his girlfriend Case. The Crystal Key takes the world established by The Hollow Boys and continues to add layer upon layer of wonderfully deep lore and narrative, continuing in the best way possible by telling a tale that is complete and satisfying in its own right whilst building on the work already done. A reading experience as exciting as it is deeply insightful, I recommend it to all.

Samantha Gregory

The Crystal Key: The Dream Rider Saga Book 2 by Douglas Smith follows the further adventures of Will, Case, Fader, and the Hollow Boys, or H Boys as they now call themselves. Fresh from their fight in the world of Dream, they are trying to build a better life for the Hollow Boys. Will and Case are together, but she is starting to resent being a kept woman. Meanwhile, Will is still struggling to deal with his agoraphobia. When a new mysterious evil raises its head, Will and his friends must stop it by working together. But what will it cost them?

Douglas Smith has written an entertaining sequel in The Crystal Key. Now that the immediate danger has passed, we get to see the characters in a normal environment, or at least as normal as they can get. I like the different issues they face, especially Case dealing with her new life. She has had to struggle for everything and now that she has all she could want, she feels guilty. Then there is the question of her mother and her disappearance. Will's struggle is well written as he wants to be better for Case, but it's still hard for him to go outside after everything that happened with his parents. The story moves at a good pace and the characters are well-developed. I think young adult fantasy fans would enjoy this series. I would recommend it and I look forward to reading more in the series.

Vincent Dublado

If you're looking for a thrilling adventure full of action and suspense, then The Crystal Key is for you. Douglas Smith has crafted an excellent sequel to The Hollow Boys that will captivate you from start to finish. The story picks up with Will Dreycott, the Dream Rider, and his friends, Case and Fader, as they navigate new challenges and mysteries. After defeating a body swapper and a witch, Will exhausts all means to live a normal life, to make his girlfriend happy, and at the cost of attracting the attention of sinister forces. Can their powers continue to grow Case’s ability to fight, Fader’s control of the In-Between, and Will’s astral abilities?

With strong personal and romantic elements, Douglas Smith's writing is top-notch, creating an immersive world that will transport you to another dimension. The characters are well-developed and their relationships are believable, making it easy to empathize with their struggles. One of the things that stood out for me was the unique concept of dream riding. It's fascinating to see how Smith has expanded on this idea and incorporated it into the plot. The dream world is vividly described, and readers will feel as though they are right there with the characters, experiencing their adventures.

The pacing is excellent, with the action scenes well-choreographed, and the quieter moments providing emotional depth and character development. There are plenty of twists and turns throughout, keeping you on your toes and ensuring you will want to keep turning the pages. This fantastic sequel builds upon the first book's strengths while also introducing new and exciting elements. It's a story about friendship, trust, and self-discovery that will resonate with all ages. Smith has created a world that readers will want to revisit time and again, making this series a must-read for fans of fantasy and adventure.

Essien Asian

William Dreycott continues his search for his parents who went missing during one of their expeditions in Peru. This time he is not alone in his investigation. He has his new friends Case and Fader, siblings who used to live on the streets but now share his home, assisting him. Their search is focused on finding the mysterious shield that protects the tower from assaults from the otherworldly beings who have shown an interest in the activities of the Dream Rider. What they do not realize is that their actions have attracted the attention of others who seek the same item for reasons that are far from altruistic. Will must protect his new family while unlocking the secrets that lie in his path in The Crystal Key by Douglas Smith.

The search for answers continues in the second installment of Douglas Smith's series. The storyline remains youthful and adventurous but it is nice to see that the bulk of the story's focus shifts away from the primary character towards creating some overdue depth in what I would consider secondary characters in this entertaining story. Adrienne's origin story ties nicely into the overall plot, filling in some not-so-obvious gaps while the evolution of Fader's and Case's superpowers makes for an interesting subplot. Even the romantic component of this story receives an upgrade with Link's intentions displaying an increased maturity, which is a surprising yet welcome addition. What stands out for me is the way Smith expands on his storytelling to give us an insight into the motivations of the antagonists in an immersive and exciting manner, which amps up the suspense. I expected big things from The Crystal Key and I was not disappointed. Douglas Smith has outdone himself once again.

Alex Ndirangu

The Crystal Key is the second book in Douglas Smith's enthralling Dream Rider saga. Will, our Dream superhero, is still trying to solve the mystery surrounding his parents and the disappearance of Case's mother. He has also not given up searching for a cure for his agoraphobia, especially now that his girlfriend, Case, seems unhappy and troubled by something she won't disclose. Could she be getting anxious that they might never hold hands outside the tower like a normal couple? Or could it be her mother's recent visits in nightmares? Either way, Will must move fast to fix himself and the lives of those he cares about. But in a world of uncertainty where he is being followed and even attacked in his tower, will he emerge as the hero we expect?

The Crystal Key is packed with revelations that you won't see coming. The characters gain more power, including my favorite one, Fader. But things take a dangerous turn when his fading power starts controlling him, and he begins to disappear from the minds of those who love him most. Everything pales to shades of gray, and the voices of people talking around him are only distant mumbles. Soon, Fader may no longer be part of this world. The main characters are well-developed, and even minor players are sufficiently fleshed out to understand them better. I've grown to love the relationship between Will and Case. They clung to each other despite their weaknesses, inadequacies, and vulnerabilities. I admired how they went to great lengths to fight for each other. Douglas Smith's talent for creating a realistic and engaging environment is one of the book's strong points. The story starts with a catchy scene and builds to another expertly constructed adventure that every action, suspense, and fantasy lover should explore.