Scott, Manda - '2012: The Crystal Skull'
To capitalise on the film recently released (2012) this book has been partly renamed, and the sticker on the front says 'find out about 2012 before you see the film'. But this is not the book of the film, although it does revolve around the predicted catastrophe that is going to occur in 2012. Several of Manda Scott's previous books have been about Boudicca, so this book is a bit of a departure for her, although it contains two intertwined stories, one set in the present day (2007) and the other several hundred years earlier (1556), and therefore still has an historical angle. Apparently there are a number of crystal skulls scattered around the world, all of which are looked after by designated guardians. The guardians all know that the skulls have to be placed in special sacred places before a specific date in 2012, to avert the 'end of the world' predicted by the Mayans centuries ago. One of the skulls, the crystal skull in question, was hidden by Cedric Owen back in the 1500s to prevent the wrong person finding the skull and using it to augment their powers. But he has left clues in the hope that the skull will be found in time, in the 20th century, and be used to avert the oncoming disaster.
As the book begins, Stella, newly married to Kit is deep beneath Ingleborough Fell in the Yorkshire Dales with her husband searching for the skull, which they believe is secreted somewhere in one of the caves. They have managed to decode documents left by Owen in Cambridge University that includes the directions for the location of the skull. They manage to find it, but on the way out, someone attacks Kit and he is severely injured. Someone who knows that they were searching for the skull has followed them and tried to steal the skull. Kit survives, but is disabled, straining his relationship with Stella as she starts to learn about the skull and its powers. Meanwhile, we find out about Owen's journey and his own discovery of the skull and its powers back in the 1500s. Stella discovers what she needs to do with the skull but doesn't know where it has to be placed. With help from friends, colleagues and from Kit, she has to work quickly to find out what to do next, while the mysterious person who tried to steal the skull before, is clearly intent on succeeding next time.
Suspending disbelief, and going with the flow of the story, this is a well-told adventurous story. The ending is a bit daft, and I can't quite believe that the strategic placing of a few precious stones will really avert the end of the world, or that intelligent Cambridge scholars would believe it either. But the story is well told, and the characters likeable. Stella in particular has just the right combination of determination and vulnerability that immediately puts the reader on her side, and wants her to succeed. The juxtaposed story of Owen and his own journey is also well told and has an authentic feel of the period. An enjoyable book, but not one to take too seriously (I hope…).
Michelle Peckham, England