Past and present merge as four children embark on a deadly quest for an object of power.
In this final volume of a fantasy trilogy for middle schoolers, four siblings in the 1940s are catapulted into North America’s long-ago past for a danger-filled wilderness adventure. Their quest: locate the powerful “Last Crystal,” in hopes that its magic can heal their father, a wounded World War II Army Air Forces pilot. As in the first and second books, The Black Alabaster Box (2018) and The Red Abalone Shell (2018), historical elements, including racial and ethnic issues and how ancient Native peoples lived, are integral to the narrative. In 1944, the children board a train in Kansas City, bound for Los Angeles. The oldest Harrison sibling is responsible J.D.; the youngest is Grace, who sees things others don’t—and who is the third generation of girls named Grace to play a central role in the continuing plot. In between are Mary Carol, a magic believer, and observant skeptic Robert. Also on board: wicked Celeste, who needs a child to retrieve the Last Crystal to maintain her youth and beauty and who is delighted to discover Grace Harrison, whom she intends to bend to her will. (In the conflict between good and evil and in the part children play in it, there is an echo of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.)Escaping Celeste, the kids leap off the train into grassland thousands of years in the past, and Schoonmaker’s riveting narrative deepens into a sobering tale of high-stakes survival. Over their monthslong ordeal, the children, following a mysterious map to the crystal, sustain injuries, suffer extreme thirst and hunger, learn to rely on one another, and discover their individual strengths. The immersive plot, created with both authentic realism and imagination-stirring mysticism, includes an encounter with a Grace hidden from Celeste long ago in an ancient Chumash village where she is the resident shaman. Old Shep, an ageless, enigmatic dog, returns; so do Uncle James and two immortals: good Mr. Nichols and evil Sandastros.
A gripping fantasy with relatable young characters meeting life-threatening challenges. (author bio)