Katy's Reviews > The Ghost in the Crystal

The Ghost in the Crystal by Matt Posner
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's review
Aug 12, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: ebook
Recommended to Katy by: Matt Posner
Recommended for: those who enjoy magic, magical reality, YA fantasy

Reread started 8/7/2013. Previously read April, 2012
Series Information: School of the Ages series
Book 1: The Ghost in the Crystal, review linked here
Book 2: Level Three's Dream, review linked here
Book 2.5: Sara Ghost, review linked here
Anthology: Tales of Christmas Magic, review linked here
Book 3: The War Against Love, review linked here
Book 4: Simon Myth, to be read
Please note that reviews linked are my original reviews done after my first reading and subject to minor change after re-reading. For latest review, see Goodreads
See also: Author interview linked here

Book Info: Genre: Fantasy/Magic
Reading Level: Young Adult
Trigger Warning: violence, fighting, references to 9/11

My Thoughts: I imagine a lot of reviewers have referenced Harry Potter, but this is not Harry Potter. The Harry Potter books had an initial kind of innocence to them; this book has an almost-immediately darker feel. Simon Magus is 13-going-on-14 when he learns about the School of the Ages, and his parents are involved in the decision for him to go there. There are no “houses,” no familiars, no robes required for the students, no institutionalized rivalry like that created by the contests between the houses in HP, no flying on broomsticks, no magical creatures... basically, this is a completely different type of story, more in line with a realistic world, and one I found very appealing.

I must say that, overall, I really loved this book. It was very engaging, the characters changed and grew through the series, and Posner left lots of room for development of their characters as they age. Robbie Ravitz is the one who most acted his age – Simon and Goldberry were almost preternaturally mature for their ages. I enjoyed the character dynamics, and liked most of the characters. I hope we continue to learn more about them, including the enigmatic Rambal, and why Chatterjee and Bannerjee look so much alike.

I noticed a few inconsistencies. For instance, when Simon first goes to the school, he is shown the seven arches. Later the arches are mentioned again, and seven names are given, but the person talking says – twice – that there are six arches. This is done again toward the end of the book: I paused for a moment to look at the six pillars: faith, perception, balance, wisdom, receptiveness, judgment, and discipline. That is, by my count, seven pillars, not six, as said during the initial visit to the school. Edit: The author tells me he is fixing this in the next edition. End Edit

I should point out that while Matt Posner has put in the Chasidic Jewish family and students, my husband used to live in Israel and told me that this would not happen. The Chasidics would refuse to have anything to do with anyone else – it is not possible that a Cabala school would be integrated with any other school, nor is it possible that they would have anything to do with any Gentile. In fact, being in the presence of a Gentile causes them to become unclean and they need to go through special cleansing rituals before they can be reintegrated with their families. Chasidics would therefore require that they be in a separate school, with nothing to do with anyone else, and only Chasidics to be allowed in. I’ll admit that I asked him this because I honestly expected, based upon the hostility between them, that Yakov and Simon would be teamed up somehow – boy did I get an earful! He says that, in Israel, they have separated themselves to the point where they have their own towns, put up walls around them, and don’t allow anyone else inside. These are not people I see accepting the authority of the School of the Ages. However, that is in Israel and I have to admit that it is likely they aren’t quite so segregated here in the States. This is a side issue, anyway...

It is strange to me also that the only devotionals are run by a rabbi (and listed on the schedule for Simon and Goldberry, when they are not Jewish); it is also strange that the only religion that is allowed for (by leaving the Sabbat clear, except for a basic class in Hebrew) is Judaism. While it is, of course, unlikely that any people from other Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions would be enrolled in the school (it is, in fact, unlikely that the Jewish students would be enrolled there – usually a Cabala school would be separate and exclusively Jewish, as I mentioned before), it is strange that these traditions aren’t kept to a certain degree. There is a certain degree of magic in the history of both the Catholic and Protestant churches, after all, even if they don’t admit it readily. However, although this is a school of magic with simply a connection to the Cabala school, there are several Rabbis teaching and they often discuss their religious beliefs. It’s something that sort of confused me. Of course, students are allowed days off from school for religious observances, and Hinduism is brought up during Asian History class, but there are no pujas during the school year at the school, and meditation is areligious. It didn’t bother me, as I’m not a religious person, I just found the dynamic a bit strange. I guess it challenged my perceptions of the world and my ideas of how things “should be”.

Well, I have certainly digressed a lot in this review – but I must say I enjoy a book that makes me think, makes me question and, most importantly, makes me challenge my boundaries and ideas. For those of you who want a lot of magical twiddle-twaddle (not that there is anything wrong with that; I enjoy that sort of thing, myself), this is not that kind of book. This kind of magic is, for the most part, subtle and quite realistic. I think those of us who know a bit about magic will be the sorts who will particularly enjoy this book, although anyone who enjoys YA fantasy will also likely enjoy this book. I definitely want to talk to the author about some of the ideas he came up with and the sorts of research he did. Maybe, if you’re lucky, I’ll turn it into a Q&A and post it on my blog – would you like that? I have an interview with the author posted here on my blog. I highly recommend this book, and I will now try to get the next book in the series read tonight (Level Three's Dream, book 2, review posted here) so I can review it before I get started on what looks to be a long week of editing. Check this book out – enjoy!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this eBook from the author in exchange for an honest review. Edit book read and reviewed in April, 2012 - making some edits to my review.

Synopsis: Your NEW favorite magic school is New York City's School of the Ages. I am a mixed-race teen from Queens, New York, and when I answer an advertisement in a magazine, the South Wind shows up at my door to introduce me to a world of adventure, power, and tragedy that feels both strange and right: ghosts, elementals, time travel, magic duels, clashes of culture, teen romance, sacrifice, and ultimate loss. The evil spirit of a bitter and scheming heretic from ancient Alexandria attacks me and forces me to risk everything in order to save his soul. Kids and adults won't stop reading -- The Ghost in the Crystal. I am Simon Magus, and I approve this message.
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Reading Progress

August 12, 2011 – Shelved
August 12, 2011 – Shelved as: ebook
April 28, 2012 –
0.0% "actually probably won't get much read before I crash for awhile, but wanted to get this set up, anyway..."
April 28, 2012 –
8.0% "I'm actually glad I didn't start this until after I slept. If I had started it before, I wouldn't have slept until I slumped over. I'm only pausing now 'cause I know I need to clear out some of my eMail before my box explodes..."
April 28, 2012 –
12.0% "Due to the extreme reactions, I'm guessing that the Dean will put Simon and Yakov together as study partners. The problem is that a true Chasidic Jew will refuse to have anything to do with anyone who is non-Chasidic and especially with someone who is not a Jew... I'll wait to see how this turns out, but it is possible that a huge chunk of this is completely impossible due to that, but @ this point I'm just guessing"
April 28, 2012 –
30.0% "Interesting, well, I'm glad I was wrong about that anyway... I'll quit with the discussion of the plot, though, to avoid spoilers..."
April 29, 2012 –
66.0% "Damn, there is SOMETHING wrong with my eye; it's been watering like crazy all day and now it's starting to itch and hurt... I'm going to go to sleep and hope it feels better in the morning..."
April 29, 2012 –
93.0% "Eye is still bothering me, but better at least than this morning. This is a really well-done book."
April 29, 2012 –
93.0% "Eye is still bothering me, but better at least than this morning. This is a really well-done book."
August 7, 2013 – Started Reading
August 7, 2013 –
1.0% "I wanted to re-read the novels in this series (but not the shorts) before I read the latest, so here we go!"
August 7, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Alejandro (new)

Alejandro Great review! It was really good to read your review, since I think that everybody who read the synopsis will come with Harry Potter to their minds and maybe thinking, why to bother to read a Harry Potter wannabe, but your review left clear that this is a different story. Good comment about the pillars and even better that the author admit that it was a mistake. Awesome insight of your husband about the subject.

Katy Oh, I love these books! If you look, I've updated this review to include links to the reviews of all the books in the series that I have read so far. They are the original reviews, which I might update or add a bit to when I re-read, and I've also linked to a Q&A I did with the author about the series, so be sure to check that out. I'm rereading them since I recently received the 4th book, and I wanted to remind myself of all the details in the books. You should absolutely check these out, they're wonderful books!

message 3: by Alejandro (new)

Alejandro Thanks for the recommendation :D I will check about them!

Katy The books are running $2.99 for e-book editions on Amazon. I just purchased a copy of this one, and I already have book 2. I'll pick up book 3 next time I have a gift cert, but book 4 is on KDP, so I'll be watching for a free promo on that one.

message 5: by Alejandro (new)

Alejandro Katy wrote: "The books are running $2.99 for e-book editions on Amazon. I just purchased a copy of this one, and I already have book 2. I'll pick up book 3 next time I have a gift cert, but book 4 is on KDP, so..."

Sounds like a good deal. Thanks for the info :)

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