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Crystal Keep #1

Guardian's Key

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Guardian's Key tells the dark legend of Crystal Keep. Into this magical fortress, protected by the all-powerful Guardian, comes a young woman searching for her own special magic, and her own self.

310 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published May 1, 1996

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Anne Logston

12 books38 followers

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5 stars
78 (29%)
4 stars
77 (29%)
3 stars
79 (30%)
2 stars
16 (6%)
1 star
11 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 20 of 20 reviews
December 3, 2020

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This book sent me into a book slump because I was so fucking disappointed. It was actually hard to find because it was recently pulled from ebook and I had to buy a used copy of it like a total book bitch. But someone told me that this was basically ill-concealed Labyrinth fic, and that sort of shit is my fangirl kryptonite so I was like shut up and take my $$$$. I ordered that shit used from Amazon like a champ of ordering used books and stalked the mailbox until it arrived in its little wrapper, before spritzing it with some sanitizer.

GUARDIAN'S KEY started out okay. It's about this girl named Dora/Dara (can't remember her name??) who is going to this place called the Crystal Keep to learn how to be a magician because she's poor and in love with this high lord guy whose family is a bunch of snobs that doesn't want him marrying with the poors (although it's fine when the poors serve the toast, etc.). Anyway, the Crystal Keep is owned by this hot dude named Lord Vanian who is basically Jareth with dark hair and it's pretty hot how he taunts her and pops up where he's not wanted... until he rapes her. Oops.

Honestly, I have no problem with the rape but what I DID have a problem with was one of the characters, Granny Good (e.g. Granny Gaslight) telling her that it wasn't really rape because only mind tricks were involved and not physical force (paraphrasing). I was so mad that I immediately began texting all my friends and raging about this book (as one does) and stopped reading it for a few weeks. If you're going to have non-con or dub-con FUCKING OWN UP TO IT. Don't be an apologist in the narrative subtext. I was mad. But every time I went into my bathroom, this book sat there mocking me, for my failure, and my lost hopes, and so I decided to sit down and skim-read it to the end.

GUARDIAN'S KEY is like half-plucky 90s heroine fantasy in the vein of Tamora Pierce or Catherine Asaro and half-bodice-ripper fantaporn adventure, but it does things by halvsies, so it ends up feeling really inconsistent in tone. There are dark scenes, like the heroine's near gangbang at the tiny hands of a swarm of rapey elves, and then of course, the rape by Lord Vanian, and then there's her Hoggle-like companion Gespry and all of her fun little traipsings through the Keepyrinth that feel much younger in tone and there's no explicit sex scenes, so I was like, omg, it's like Scooter's Magic Castle but with dub-con and rape apology. Hooray.

I'm not giving it the full one star because LV was hot and in the hands of another author, I think I would have been like hnnnnng. Also, the Labyrinth nostalgia of the Keepyrinth was pretty fun. I'm just pissed that this book went hardcore wack on my expectations and also I'm drinking some pretty strong wine right now and am therefore naturally inclined to become more forgiving.

1.5 stars
Profile Image for Bonnie.
1,284 reviews116 followers
August 27, 2014
I love this book. I've already re-read it four or five times since I first picked it up six years ago and I plan to re-read it again. And this is from a girl who very rarely re-reads. What can I say, I'm a sucker for the old she hates him-she loves him trope where the love interest is initially the mysterious bad boy the heroine sees as an antagonist. Plus, the concept of every door opening into another landscape (including one into an amazing library) is wish-fulfillment for me. However, do not, I repeat DO NOT attempt to read the sequel. I got less than halfway through it and then decided I would pretend it doesn't exist.

This was the first book I read by the author and then attempted to track down everything else she wrote based on my love for this book. Nothing else she ever wrote even slightly compared.
Profile Image for Jennis Andelin.
111 reviews4 followers
May 7, 2017
sorry, can't get on board with a book where the protagonist falls in love/ends up with the man who rapes her. especially when the book justifies the rape and makes it seem like no big deal. yuck yuck yuck.
Profile Image for daemyra, the realm's delight.
877 reviews37 followers
March 31, 2021
Took me two tries to get a physical copy of the mass market paperback, so my appetites were whetted, to say the least!

Anne Logston's Guardian's Key is about Dara, the daughter of 2 powerful mages turned scullery maid-we'll get to that in a moment- who travels to the magical Crystal Keep in order to get her wish granted. Think of the Crystal Keep as a wishing well with a warning sign ~*~be careful what you wish for~*~

Dara, despite being the child of 2 mages whose family lines are all mages, does not have magic in her blood. So, she leaves her family home to make her own living when she winds up in the stables of Caistrand land and snaps at the stableboy to take her to the High Lord and Lady so she can apply for a position. Turns out, the stableboy is the heir to the throne! Dara and Cav share a blossoming romance that is at a crossroads when Cav's parents basically tell him they will "consider" marriage if they can check out her bloodlines and her virginity. If it turns out Dara does have mage-blood, and if she is a virgin, then they can discuss things further.

We meet Dara when she is travelling to the Crystal Keep in order to get her wish to have magic granted by the oracle of the Crystal Keep. The guardian of the keep is the rude and condescending Lord Vanian, who Dara takes an instant dislike to.

The rules of the Crystal Keep are simple: For value given there must be value received. The guardian grants the wish if the seeker knows the value of the wish, and can give that to the guardian. To know the value, she must find the oracle, behind one of the doors of the keep. Dara is given a key that unlocks the doors.

The fun of Guardian's Key is exploring the many doors of the Keep that reveal different, impossible landscapes. Loved this idea. For a story about exploring the doors of perception, I was hoping for mythical writing -basically, I wanted Ursula K. Le Guin- but it's more action-oriented, almost YA in aspects: Granny Good felt like a very YA character, so did the snarky animal companion, a tomboy-ish female character who is also the underestimated servant gal.

Guardian's Key is a fantasy romance of sorts. The chemistry between Dara and Vanian in their first meeting was promising, and their cat-and-mouse dynamic culminates in a controversial sex scene. Afterwards, the plot focuses on Dara uncovering the secret of the Crystal Keep, and Dara and Vanian's romance develops subtly and off-camera.

I, personally, did not feel very much when Vanian takes an arrow for her, and Dara, in turn, saves him by securing the antidote. I think this is because it would have been nice to see their relationship develop on the page, as Dara and Vanian are both obsessively in love with their first loves that they've put on pedestals for the majority of the novel.

Not only that, but they can't stand each other, not in the sexy hate-love way that the book tries to *wink wink* the reader to. Much is suggested about how hate and love are the sides of the same coin, and that is how Dara and Vanian are reacting to each other, but Dara's attraction to Vanian is subtle. She's constantly reminiscing about Cav, and while Vanian seems to be physically attracted to Dara, I sometimes found him too abrupt with her, but not in a sexy way? In a clinical way. ​To be fair, from what I understand of Logston, her romance isn't explicit.

One spoiler I'll say about the bed scene is that Vanian admits to Dara near ​the end of the novel that she not only pretended to herself that she was with Cav, but he pretended he was with Marguerid. They BOTH pretended what it would be like to be with their beloved. Very twisted lol.

As to Dara and the OM, from a critical perspective, Cav is a refreshingly realistic portrayal of the nice OM. You see the nice OM in romances that are handsome, respectable, and says all the right things. That's either all he is or that's not all he seems. So, the nice oM is either bland or the villain. If he's bland, he's either boring or a martyr at the end, giving the heroine his blessings. If he's the villain, well he'll be showing his true colours through being a conservative prig or a desperate kidnapper.

Cav is neither. He's a grave, kindly heir that sort of falls in love with one of the scullery maids. Cav is basically the sidepiece dude who wants to have his cake and eat it too. However, he’s not a creep. He’s nice, but he’s not going to rock the boat. He’s neutral, but it’s quite selfish.

Dara notes how he’s not the type to charge ahead, such as by going to the Crystal Keep for answers. And that’s ok. But what’s not ok is that Dara thinks Cav will take care of her and set her up in a house, and she knows that he would never try to force his attention on her. That being said, he is selfish for continuing to be with Dara when she would want to be his wife, but through their combined efforts, she has no magic that might make her a real contender.

Dara eventually realizes that Cav isn’t a great person to be in a relationship with… although girl should have come to that conclusion when she decided to go to a wishing well to try to change herself to be someone he could marry!

Anyways, I also liked the ending. It was powerful, and I enjoyed Dara and Vanian's honest vows to each other, that they both are trying to change and grow. Although I was hoping they would see life outside the Keep (and I feel like Logston could have came up with a magical deus ex machina to make that happen), the ending is fitting.
Profile Image for Kagama-the Literaturevixen.
793 reviews124 followers
August 28, 2012
After seeing reviews comparing this to the movie Labyrinth, but with a romance, I couldnt wait to read this book. Yes I admit... I ship Sara/Jareth *blushes*

Dara is a daughter of two magicians,but as she had no powers of her own she ran away from home.
She became servant at a castle and fell in love with a young man who is the heir to the kingdom.
They cannot marry though because she lacks magic talent (seems being a commoner isnt too big of an obstacle for marrying,but being magicless is.)

The story starts when she has embarked on her quest to find

The setting was quite interesting and mysterious,so in that way it was similar to Labyrinth.SarahDara also acquires a companion that reminded me of Hoggle.

But I require more of a book than having things in common with a film I love.And this book has plenty of flaws and things that I didnt like.

Many things never got explained or were repeated several times. The thing is we dont get to see Daras memories,she just tells them to us straight.So there was some serious info dumping going on.And some revelations that were underwhelming.

Something that happened was even disturbing like when

I hated how another character just brushed off this.

Profile Image for Tripleguess.
197 reviews16 followers
March 9, 2014
"Misunderstood Jerk, Take #579,354." I'm going to go spoiler here --


he basically rapes the protagonist (you are splitting hairs if you say he didn't -- it's just gross either way) but she goes for him in the end because she feels sorry for him. Lady, you're crazy and there is no way I can identify you.

If he'd been a bit spiteful in the beginning then showed some depth gradually I could have swallowed the basic premise, but using someone like that then coming up with a half-assed excuse later does not make it okay. I was hoping for some light reading. Blerg. That one scene spoiled the rest of the book for me -- which got to feeling a bit Wonderwax anyway, since all of it takes place inside the sterile Keep. Please let there be something better to read out there.
Profile Image for Amanda.
1,368 reviews33 followers
January 16, 2009
Dara goes to get an answer from the Oracle, but she has to get by Vanion, the latest Guardian to get it. While in the magic castle (no kidding, an ACTUAL magic castle, imagine that?) she winds up finding how the Oracle came to be, what makes the Guardian - plus she rescues people trapped in their own little hells inside the mysterious rooms of the no-kidding-Magic-Castle.

It was okay, but I don't like the thread where Vanion tricks Dara, seduces her and then she falls in love with him. Not that her previous boyfriend was much to write home about, but why in fiction do even smart, determined women fall in love with their "dark" seducers. It's all so Harlequin Romance Windswept series.
18 reviews1 follower
July 13, 2019
I was honestly surprised with how much I enjoyed this read. I honestly expected it to be a bit of a throwaway read. but it was absolutely enchanting. between the mystery and magic of the keep, to Dara's intrepid and determined spirit the entire thing was absolutely wonderul. very interesting and with hardly a dull moment, all carrying a very beautiful theme. can't wait to get my own copy and read it again and highly reccomend it.
Profile Image for Kate H.
1,680 reviews1 follower
January 19, 2016
I always loved this book and all the author's other stories. I wish she had written more books. Her characters are approachable and yet appropriately foreign. The land is just obscure enough to not be ours but yet relatable enough to make it viable. I love her humor and her characterization.
Profile Image for Sarah.
8 reviews
June 27, 2008
Really good book. It's got a really interesting story line, and it's easy to get drawn into. You might be able to guess the ending, but it's not the most obvious.
Profile Image for Hannah Maree.
60 reviews5 followers
February 3, 2018
Was clearly once Labyrinth fic, and not even good Labyrinth fic unfortunately
Profile Image for Lee Bartholomew.
139 reviews
December 4, 2021
Bit more interesting than the last book. It had the feeling of labyrinth but I'd thought this might be boring if she'd open every door and she didn't so it took the feel of fun to read. I'd had Exile since 2001. I didn't know it was book 2. I hadn't read it yet so managed to find a new old stock copy of this. Glad I did.. Was rather refreshing.
Profile Image for Greymalkin.
1,229 reviews
July 1, 2020
Oh dear. Sometimes it's nice to re-read old favorites and sometimes you read them and wonder how the heck you could have missed how terrible a book is. Unfortunately this is the latter.

Sorry there are going to be some mild spoilers below because wow, this needs a content warning on it.



Originally I gave this 5 stars. And I'll still give it 1 star for solid world-building and serviceable writing. However the fact that the main character is raped and then gaslit about it afterward is appalling. No, just because he didn't slap her around doesn't mean it wasn't rape. And there was so much unnecessary sexual assault and general creepiness. She got used to her "best friend" watching her bathe naked (he was always described as "leering") because he was a tiny monkey creature and "couldn't do anything about it". Except allowing herself to be creepily stared at while naked is not "harmless" when she didn't like it or consent to it. There were more incidents too.

It's a pity because WITHOUT all this stuff the book itself would be a perfectly serviceable fantasy with many interesting world-lets behind doors and a nice find-your-place-in-the-world story for the heroine. And that's the part I remembered before I re-read it. Oh well.

Old review below:
Although magic and fantastical events happen throughout the book, much like Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, it is really more about the main character's growth and coming into her own strength and confidence. Infact the two books are quite similar in tone and plot. If you liked one you might like this one too (this one has less humor though). It's a very self contained story, not a huge sprawling world-traversing adventures or a high culture navigation of treacherous politics.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Emma.
4 reviews
April 23, 2014
Okay, so I read this book off of a suggestion that it was similar to Ella Enchanted, so I snatched it up and read it hoping to find a fantasy story with a strong, independent female protagonist with just enough romance to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

And it was sorta like that

It was similar in the fact that the main character was female and was written in the first person point of view. She is fairly independent and winds up saving herself or whatever. The setting is the good ol' middle aged times with magic and dragons and whatnot, so that was all the same as well. And then there's the romance, it's there but it definitely DID NOT make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Aside from the fact that the book was way longer than it needed to be, the writing is okay. The style it's written in flows well and I got through the book very easily. The main character is very "meh". She's not clever or particularly adventuresome. She wanders through most of the book without a plan and most of the critical points fall in her lap (metaphorically and figuratively).

On that note, the guy she winds up with at the end of the book, he rapes her. There are no two ways of looking at it. He gets her drunk and tricks her into thinking he's someone else and rapes her. But by the end of the book, she's okay with it, and decides to spend the rest of her life literally trapped in a building with him.

Also the ending is alluded to throughout the whole story as some big riddle and the answer to the riddle is a huge letdown and not clever or well built up to at all. Several characters repeat the same clue over and over until she just figures it out after spending nine tenths of the book having no idea what they mean.
Profile Image for Victoria.
2,512 reviews53 followers
December 21, 2019
Well, I really liked the premise of this book, The Crystal Keep was a neat idea and all of the magic within was pretty neat, too! But, I had a problem - a very serious problem - with the core relationship in the book. The central romance starts with a rape - "Lord" Vanian raped Dara. And then they fall in love?! What?!! I really took offense to this, and to be honest, this made the whole book just feel dirty and dreadful. I don't understand how a woman could have written this and not thought about what the message really sends to women. I just don't see how this whole love/hate thing works here... Yikes!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for RogueHireling.
565 reviews8 followers
March 27, 2010
I would probably give this a two and a half. It took me a really long time to read, I think mainly because I just didn't find it that interesting.
The ideas were interesting as such, but I just dont think the delivery was quite engaging enough.
The characters were somewhat bland mainly because there was no time given to investing the reader into the characters.
Overall it was a fine read, but not a book I couldn't put down.
386 reviews2 followers
September 21, 2020
Even when I was so in love with Anne Logston's heroines I kept every title possible on my shelf, this one was... difficult to reconcile. I think I read it through at least three times, trying to let Logston persuade me that a "relationship" beginning in trickery and rape can eventually become voluntary, even... sweet?

Yeah, no. In the end, that's a bridge too far.
Profile Image for Tracy.
112 reviews5 followers
February 6, 2014
Wow, time changes perspective! I read this years ago and was never bothered by the shallowness of the characters, or the really ridiculous idea that -


-she's going to forgive him for being a rapist, and fall in love with him.
All that said, it's still engagingly readable, and well paced.
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