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Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal
General information
Series

Rowan of Rin

Author

Emily Rodda

Publication
Publisher

Scholastic Press

Published

1996

Chronology
Preceded by

Rowan and the Travellers

Followed by

Rowan and the Zebak

Rowan and The Keeper of the Crystal is a fantasy novel written by Emily Rodda. It is the third book in the Rowan of Rin series.

Book description[]

Rowan and his mother have been called to Maris to choose the new Keeper of the seaside village's precious Crystal, a dangerous task Rowan's family has been bound to for generations.

But this time, something goes terribly wrong. Rowan's mother is poisoned and near death, and Rowan must find the antidote, outwit a deadly sea serpent, and pick a new Keeper -- before it's too late.

Plot[]

In the village square, the people of Rin gather after hearing the bell ring, to witness the arrival of a Maris messenger. The messenger, who calls himself Perlain, warns that the Crystal is dimming. Lann assures him that the Chooser has heard the summons, and will obey it, no matter the danger.

Perlain wishes to leave straight away for Maris, despite his dehydration, but Lann objects to it, and promises that the Chooser will leave at sunset. To Rowan's shock, it is Jiller who agrees.

Confused and afraid, Rowan follows his mother and Jonn to their home to prepare for the journey, and begs Jiller to tell him what is happening. Jiller however refuses to speak, instead staying grimly silent. It is Jonn who speaks, telling Rowan to wait until they are alone, for Jiller will not speak about this until then. Feeling very bewildered at the turn of events, Rowan is filled with questions he does not voice. He recalls a memory, of sitting under the Teaching Tree during a lesson in which Timon spoke about the history of Maris and the Keeper of the Crystal.

Travelling to Maris, Rowan learns from Perlain about how the Crystal was found by the first Keeper, Orin the Wise. Arriving at Maris, Rowan is faced with potential danger from the unfamiliar Maris folk. However, he is soon called to be the Chooser as his mother fell ill to a poison called Death Sleep. As the Chooser, Rowan is recognised by the Crystal and meets the three candidates, Doss of Pandellis, Asha of Umbray, and Seaborn of Fisk. With his mother in dire condition, Rowan manages to urge the Keeper for the antidote recipe and promises to return for the Choosing. John stays with Jiller as the island is forbidden to all except the Keeper.

"To mix the brew that wakes Death Sleep, fill one spread hand with silver deep. In hungry pool moons raise their heads-.Pluck one and add the tears it sheds. Stir slowly with new fighter's quill. Three times, no more, and let it still. Add venom from your greatest fear—One drop—and then the truth is clear."

As the candidates follow with him to keep him safe for the Choosing, they venture into the unseen part of the island where they suspect the ingredients will be—following the footsteps of Orin. They come across a wide path leading deep into the forest. Following the glint of silver ahead, they found a small but deep pool of water. Growing under the water was a flower that resembled the moon and produced a sweet scent.

With the first two ingredients in front of them, Rowan urged Seaborn to gather the silver sand at the bottom of the pool as the antidote required the webbed hand of a Maris. Seaborn managed to gather the silver deep in his hand but was attacked by the unseen flesh-eating fish in the water. After collecting the sand into a jar, Rowan tended to his wounds as he refused help from the other candidates.

To collect the second ingredient, a drop of the juice that drips from the broken stem of the flower, the group thought of ways to retrieve it. Asha proposed catching the fish in their nets and taking them all out before a huge bird descended back to the water. The bird quickly swerved and rushed at Rowan and Asha before flying away. Following Asha's idea, they tied their nets together and tried to net the fish but found they ate through it. With no time to waste waiting for the bird to pick all the fish out, the group thought again. Doss suddenly brought up that the fish are afraid of the bird and will bury themselves beneath the silver just before it swoops and until the danger passes. After a moment, Rowan gained an idea and constructed a bird shape using part of Seaborn's green cloak and sticks. Using it to scare the fish away, Rowan reached into the water when the fish buried themselves and pinched the flower out. Although some fish bit and wriggled on his arms, Rowan managed to let one drop of the flower fall into the jar, turning the mix blue.

Moving on to the next ingredient, Seaborn proposed a long, green feather that the fighter bird plucked from its wing in rage previously. Unfortunately the mix didn't turn green as it should've. When Asha brought up that she didn't understand what a feather could add, Rowan realised that the recipe need a fresh feather with the waterproof oil on it. Realising that none of them would be able to climb the cliff where the bird was, Seaborn prepared himself to fight the bird himself despite his injured arm. When the bird dove down again it ignored the others and rushed again towards Asha. Rowan quickly noticed that Asha's silver cloak reflected the bird's image and so it seemed to think it was attack its own kind. Asha swiftly unfastened her cloak and Doss and Seaborn held it up between them. Hurling the cloak aside when the bird swooped close, Rowan dived for a feather as he added the feather to the mix, turning it green.

After tending to Asha's wounds, as she also refused help from the other candidates, Rowan finally faced the remaining ingredient. Following the mind of Orin, Rowan asked the three Maris what their greatest fear was, with all answering the same thing: the Great Serpent, the mother of all serpents in the sea. Rowan recalled Perlain speaking of someone who has seen the Great Serpent and lived. Turning to Doss, Rowan urged him to speak. Doss explained that one year ago, on his Day of Farewell, their boat was tampered with and it sank. Fighting the tide, Doss describes how the Great came up from the depths and towered above him before blackness closed in on him. He was later found drifting from the shore on part of their boat with something changed in him.

"I alone of my family was spared. And I—was changed. I could feel it. Everyone around me could see it. It was as though something had been lost—or added. I do not know which."

Still with no idea how to find the Great Serpent in time, Rowan pondered how Orin made the antidote a thousand years ago. Soon after, they hid when they heard a heavy slithering to find the Great Serpent entering the clearing. The group were shocked with dread as the Great Serpent reached the pool at the top of the rock. As the monster coiled around the pool, Rowan remarked that every year it must lay its eggs in the pool. The eggs must be hard enough to survive the fish and by the time they hatch the fighter bird would have fed on many, allowing newborn serpents to reach the sea and the broken shells to be ground down into the silver at the bottom. Catching the eyes of the Great Serpent, Rowan is momentarily frozen before Doss cried out to him regarding Jiller. Realising the danger, Asha offers to take Rowan's place and retrieve a drop of venom as he need to continue the Choosing. Doss disagrees and states that only Rowan could go as the Serpent is familiar with Maris folk and will attack. Facing the Great Serpent again, Rowan carefully moved closer as the monster became wary of him but only threatened him as it laid its eggs. Rowan reached forward with the cupped moon flower petal to catch the venom that dripped from its fangs and the serpent struck. Falling back, Rowan added one drop of venom to the jar and it turned clear as glass.

"The Crystal provides the knowledge, the experience, and the power. But the Keeper provides the care and cunning. The Keeper must be able to solve new problems as well as old ones."

Fleeing the Great Serpent back to the Cavern of the Crystal, Rowan manages to give the antidote to his mother. However, by then no time remained for the trials of the Choosing. The dying Keeper of the Crystal reveals that the tasks they completed were, in fact, the trials for the Choosing as Rowan deduces that she was the one who poisoned his mother. She explains that the old trials of the Choosing ceremony led to the Maris folk adapting to only what was needed instead of the cunning and cleverness needed for the Crystal. With the trials completed, Rowan chose the next Keeper. He stated that although Asha is good and will do what she thinks is right, she still clings to the old ways and cannot become a Keeper who will try new ways. Rowan stated that although Seaborn is strong, brave, and willing to try new ways, he often acts in haste and provide the care and cunning the Keeper seeks. Rowan finally chooses Doss as the next Keeper and the other candidates are sent out.

However, before Doss could join with the Crystal, Rowan soon noticed that there was something amiss with Doss' story of first meeting the Great Serpent a year prior. He soon realised that the Doss could not have met the Great Serpent out at sea as it must have laid its eggs at the same time the year before. In dread it was soon made clear that the Zebak must have arranged for his boat to be damaged and sent him back with a false memory as they grew more cunning. In the face of Doss not becoming the next Keeper, the brainwashed Doss attacked the Keeper with his knife but was restrained by John. With the other candidates unable to enter the cavern again, Rowan was the only other person who was recognised by the Crystal and who could become the next Keeper.

Refusing to give up the the things and people he loved, Rowan began joining with the Crystal before he realised the truth. With the Keeper's last help, Rowan brought Doss forward to replace him. Completing the ceremony, Doss became the new Keeper and they all moved outside in fear. The people greeted the new Keeper and pointed to the sea. However, once the new Keeper held the Crystal and it flashed like a beacon, the brown Zebak sails leaped forward. Rowan doubted his decision but the new Keeper confirmed that his idea was correct. When the Zebak were close, the new Keeper called a storm and lightning cracked on the sea. Angered at their waking, serpents rose from the depths and attacked the Zebak ships. Although Rowan turned away from the gruesome sight, the new Keeper remained watching.

"When an old Keeper dies, all his learning and experience passes onto the Crystal. And from there is passes into the new Keeper. So nothing is lost. Everything is remembered."

Afterwards, Rowan, John, and Jiller were ready to return home and were saying their farewells to the Maris folk. The Maris folk were told what happened between them by Perlain by the new Keeper's orders so at last they understand nothing can stand against the power of the Crystal. Rowan bade farewell the new Keeper in the Cavern of the Crystal as they shared a moment of understanding of different lives. Asha later thanked Rowan for choosing Doss as she explains she would've ordered out the boats as they always did, likely resulting in many deaths. Seaborn also invited Rowan to his and Imlay's wedding in the summer before they left.

Themes and inspiration[]

Reception and awards[]

Characters[]

Chapter Names[]

  1. The Message
  2. The Crystal of Maris
  3. The Chooser
  4. The Journey
  5. Danger
  6. Poisin
  7. The Keeper
  8. The Candidates
  9. The Rhyme
  10. The Island
  11. The Beginning
  12. Out of Sight
  13. Silver Deep
  14. Hungry Pool
  15. The Plan
  16. The Fighter
  17. The Greatest Fear
  18. The Moon of the Choosing
  19. One Drop
  20. The Deceiver
  21. The Choice
  22. Terror
  23. Farewells

== Trivia ==*Before becoming the first Keeper of the Crystal, Orin the Wise belonged to the Mirril clan. After becoming the keeper, the Mirril clan became the first Choosers until they were all killed by the Zebak invasion 300 years ago.

  • Orin found the Crystal after fleeing from the Great Serpent in a small, rocky cavern deep below the sea.
  • When a Chooser dies, the next Chooser in line takes his or her place for the Choosing.
    • The Keeper of 300 years ago chose Rowan and Jiller's ancestor, Leith, to become the next Choosers. This tradition has since been passed down through family generations.
  • Candidates for to become the next Keeper cannot harm one another.
  • Keepers never leave the Cavern of the Crystal, see their homes and friends, breathe the open air, nor see the sky as the Crystal becomes all to them.

References[]

See also[]

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