The "Rowan of Rin" series is one of the best book series out there for the who are not yet ready for the Prydain Chronicles or "The Hobbit." In the third story, "Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal," we get more of a glimpse of this beautiful and dangerous world and the diverse people who inhabit it.
Rowan is stunned when the fishlike Maris folk summon his mother Jiller to the Cavern of the Crystal, there to choose a new Keeper. For reasons too complex to summarize, the Maris clans require an outsider to choose their Keeper, who helps protect them from the savage Zebak warriors. Jiller is the latest in a long line of Choosers, and Rowan will be her successor.
But upon arriving at the Cavern, Jiller is mysteriously poisoned. But after Rowan is appointed the new Chooser, he refuses to choose any of the three candidates until they help him find the ingredients for the antidote. The three set off on their quest -- but Rowan begins to wonder which of the three poisoned Jiller, and what motives are behind it.
As in the previous two books, Emily Rodda creates a believable world without the usual fantasy trappings like elves and wizards. The mystery surrounding Jiller's poisoning and the question of who would be chosen to be Keeper -- and why -- remains a question until the penultimate chapter, and events near them hint at the fourth book. The writing is beautifully descriptive without being too much so, and the dialogue is growing more realistic with every new book.
Rowan shows some personal growth since the first book, where he was outstandingly timid; here he is more self-assertive and confident, even when surrounded by strangers, and even defies the Keeper in an effort to save his mother. Jiller and Jonn (now formally engaged) are fairly nebulous. The three candidates are sufficiently defined that they don't blend together, especially Doss, who has a secret; Seaborn, who inexplicably doesn't like being a candidate; and Asha, who adheres viciously to how she thinks the world should work.
"Keeper of the Crystal" is an excellent young kids' fantasy, something for them either to read themselves or be read to at bedtime. Excellent second sequel.