The Crystal City is the (maybe) final novel in Orson Scott Card’s TALES OF ALVIN MAKER. This series started off strongly with Seventh Son and Red Prophet, but it bogged down during books three and four (Prentice Alvin and Alvin Journeyman) and I was ready to give up. However, since I had already downloaded the audio version of the sixth book, The Crystal City, from my library, I decided to finish the series. (My library didn’t have the fifth book, Heartfire, so I just read a plot summary of that one.)
Alvin and Peggy are married and have lost a child. Alvin continues his work as a Maker, trying to prepare people for his Crystal City, while Peggy is trying to end slavery. Alvin and Arthur are now in New Orleans. When Alvin heals a woman with yellow fever, she is well enough to go outside and spread it among the city, starting a plague. Alvin tries to heal as many as he can and, in the process, is suspected of witchery. It’s looking like a good time to leave New Orleans, so when a woman asks Alvin to lead thousands of runaway slaves and French refugees across the Mississippi river to freedom, he agrees to do it.
Thus The Crystal City is the Exodus story and Alvin is both a Moses figure and a Jesus figure. He teams up with his old friend Tenskwa-Tawa, the Red Prophet, to lead 5,000 people out of slavery and into the promised land. Other highlights include the introductions of Jim Bowie and Abraham Lincoln and, finally, Alvin’s dawning understanding of his purpose and the beginnings of the crystal city.
The Crystal City was hard to get through for the same reason I had trouble with books three and four in this series. The plot drags because there’s too much brooding interior monologue and far too much teasing banter amongst the characters. Almost every conversation on nearly every page of the novel is snarky or sarcastic. This is usually playful (e.g.,” I hope I grow up to be as perfect as you!”) and it feels very realistic, but it becomes incredibly boring after listening to it for so long during this series. I had to skim some of it in order to finish The Crystal City. I listened to the audio version, so basically I sped up the narration to about triple the normal rate in parts, especially the dialogue. The Blackstone audio versions are very good, by the way, though I always had to speed them up. The narrator Stephen Hoye is particularly excellent in this series.
It’s not clear whether there will be any more books in the TALES OF ALVIN MAKER series. The ending is open and some readers will be disappointed that it doesn’t tie up all the loose ends. I’m at the point that I don’t care. Either way, I’m done with Alvin Maker.