The Christmas Eve Reading List Special: Crystal Cadets

Crystal Cadets by Anne Toole (story) and Katie O’Neill (illustrator)

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“Fighting evil by moonlight! Winning love by daylight! Never running from a real fight! She’s the one named…um…Crystal Cadet?

The Stats:

  • Publication Date: January 7th, 2016 (for printed editions, Kindle edition already available) 
  • Upcoming book: Not really sure since this is a collection of Volumes 1-8 and the Vol. 8 has been called the finale, which would suck because it’s kind of a cliffhanger. Hopefully it’s just the finale of the first arc.
  • Fantasy, magic, growing up, magical girls, the power of friendship, graphic novel, middle school is tough
  • 3.3/5
  • Warnings: Targeted for a young audience so it’s dripping in “the power of friendship” morals (not that there’s anything wrong with that)

From Amazon:

“Join this team of darkness-fighting, world-saving, power-packed teen girls from all over the world on their first adventure! Zoe has always felt out of place; her foster parents are great and all, but she’s long felt like something was missing. That is, of course, until she discovers a mysterious gem left to her by her birth mother and her whole universe gets flipped around! When the crystal grants Zoe mysterious powers of light she becomes the Diamond Cadet, and she’s not the only one; suddenly she’s meeting new friends who shoot flames and glowing green arrows. It’s all fun at first, but when The Darkness possesses Zoe’s foster parents her only choice is to join this wild group of action-hero girls, traveling the globe to defeat The Darkness and find a cure!”

Zo’s Review:

*I want to apologize now for all the Sailor Moon references. They couldn’t be helped.*

I was excited when I first saw Crystal Cadets. Yes, it’s for a much younger age group but I really couldn’t help myself when I saw the cover with its multi-cultural set of characters. When I was in elementary and middle school, there were about a handful of books that I read that had main characters that I could completely identify with. (It kind of reminded me of the W.I.T.C.H. series when I first looked at it.) This was definitely an incident where the book cover really drew me in.

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What’s a magical girl story without a transformation scene? 

Let’s start with the artwork. I really love it! The colors, the designs…they were all very vibrant and crisp and it just oozed youthfulness. Unfortunately, the panel flow felt off. Granted, I was reading an ARC (Advance Review Copy) so it could be that the panel flow problem will be fixed in the final copy. Also, I read a lot of mangas, which you read from right to left instead of left to right, so that could also be me just awkwardly transitioning back to reading from left to right.

Okay, the plot. So knowing that this is for a younger audience, I wasn’t expecting the deepest of deep in terms of plot but I felt that there were some areas that could have been improved on. I feel like with most stories targeted towards elementary and middle school students, the characters have very stereotypical personalities (the geek, the shy one, the sporty/athletic one, etc.). I understand that for a younger audience that might be the best way to have the characters relatable but if that’s the case, there were a few characters that were really hard to place. I mean, if that was the purpose then fine, I’m cool with that but, if you’re going to have a group of magical girls, I think all the girls’ personalities should either be diverse or fit into the magical girl personality trope. Obviously, Zoe is the character that everyone is supposed to be rooting for, “the unsuspecting leader” of the group, but with such a diverse group of girls, it kind of sucks when some of the characters are forced into certain molds while the other girls are either being created to have more complex personalities or they just didn’t have well thought out personalities. Personally, that felt like the biggest let down of the book. The “magical girl” and the “power of friendship” themes is nothing new and have been done numerous times before through different medias (anyone remember Sailor Moon?). Having a racially diverse group of girls doesn’t, unfortunately, do much in terms of setting Crystal Cadets apart from the various other stories with similar themes. Honestly, there is one main male character in the story and I was either expecting him to pull a Tuxedo Mask (check out this link if you don’t know what I mean) or, in an even more impressive and shocking twist, have them be a queer character. That would have definitely been impressive and a change from what’s normally put out (that would have definitely been reminiscent of the Sailor Starlights in Sailor Moon).

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But guys…Zoe has a flying gryphon…Why you no use the flying gryphon?

Also, I felt there was some inconsistencies in terms of their powers. Yes, there is one character who controls fire and it has been established that if it’s raining or if she’s drenched in water she’s pretty much useless. However, the cadets all have these cool magical creatures/familiars that they can use to fight battles with. There was one time in the story where three of the characters were lost at sea, floating on basically a plank of wood. Okay, fire girl can’t do anything because she’s wet (okay, fine, makes sense with what has already been expressed) and shield girl (because I’m not sure what else her powers do other than create shields) doesn’t use her magical creature powers because 1.) she makes a unicorn and that’s apparently just too girly to use even in life or death situations and 2.) I’m going to assume that since unicorns don’t have wings, her magical creature doesn’t have flying capabilities. Okay, fine, cool, whatever, but the third girl on the raft, the “unexpected leader” has a gryphon which definitely has wings and can fly. I know, the main point of that story was to give the Cadets backstory of the history of their powers (because even though they know their parents were Cadets before them, they know no other information about their mission…another plot point that irked me with its sloppiness) however, there really was no reason why they couldn’t just fly to safety on the gryphon. I don’t mean to nag on the creators. What they produced obviously took time but little inconsistencies like that, especially when you’re creating a story dealing with magic can sometimes make or break a story for the reader.

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Personally, I would probably follow neither of them.

Overall, would I give this to a young girl in my life, or, better yet, a young Zo? Eh, maybe. Crystal Cadets was far from being a horrible book and as it is stated in the stats, there will hopefully be another arc coming after this one so who knows, a lot of the character personalities consistency issues I had with this book may be improved on in the next one. However, if you were to put this book next to any other “magical girl” book that is currently out there, I’m not sure how much it would stand out from all the other ones. I would be interested in reading the next installment of the series and seeing where the creators take the story. It’s not bad. Just need some refinement. Just because it’s a story for a younger audience doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have effort put into it.

 

You really didn’t expect me to make all these Sailor Moon references and not have the opening theme did you? 

I received a copy of this book from the NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

What do you all think? Have you read Crystal Cadets already? Have any other book suggestions that I should add to my Saturday Reading List? Leave your thoughts behind in the comments. Just be respectful please.

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