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The Crystal Skull by Manda Scott
Cover Artist: Jorge Martínez
Review by Beth Slater
Bantam Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780440243212
Date: 24 February 2009 List Price $7.50 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Stella and Kit are newlyweds, and their gift to one another was unique. In fact, it was to die for.

Stella is studying archeology, and is a caver. She asks Kit for a cave no one else had ever seen – and he finds one that is very, very close to it. In it, they find the legendary crystal skull that once belonged to Cedric Owen, benefactor of Bede's College in Cambridge, hidden for over 400 years. But almost immediately their lives are in danger – and they must split up to save themselves and the skull. When the appointed time arrives, only one of them shows up…is the curse of the skull already in motion?

Told in multiple point-of-view, the story jumps between present day with Stella and Kit back to the 1500s with Cedric Owen and his companions. Cedric has inherited the skull from his grandmother, and it has come down his family for many generations. They are its protectors, and as the book opens Cedric is fleeing with the skull because he is suspected of witchcraft because of its healing abilities – although he's barely even touched the surface of what it is capable of doing. As Cedric flees he encounters a prophet who forever changes the course of his life – and the course of the universe.

The book seems to be trying too hard to do too much. It is trying to be a mystery with fantasy and science fiction as well as archeology and history and astronomy. It's too much – trying to blend all that and add in a dash of supernatural, with too many characters and multiple point-of-view perspective, the story is too confusing and choppy to be cohesive and maintain depth. The characters have no history or development and their connections, when made, are tenuous. The Mayan cryptology isn't explained nor is the anthropomorphism or its importance – it is just 'there'. Take it or leave it.

If you saw the new Indiana Jones movie – this is nothing like it. Not even close. The only similarity is that they both have crystal skulls. The book had some promise to be interesting or a well planned plot, but there was simply too much shoved into it to have it all come out in a way that looked and sounded good. I forgot to mention the cryptography, as well – there was a lot of that – using glyphs and ciphers for messages. Maybe some of the manuscript wasn't translated after all?

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