Tor, Nov 2003, 25.95, 384 pp.
In a world where magical "knacks" flourish, Alvin as expected of the seventh son of a seventh son is a Maker, who understands the essence of things. He can invent, fix, or destroy. This includes healing or killing people.
Alvin's wife, the talented Peggy sees a future devastated by war and disease. She concludes that only her beloved has a chance to avert a pandemic disaster. She is not sure why she sends him to Nueva Barcelona (formerly New Orleans), accompanied by Arthur, his half black brother-in-law pretending to be his slave. They await a sign while staying with abolitionist friends of Peggy. When the plague strikes the Spanish controlled city, Alvin keeps his hosts, much of the poor, and Arthur disease free, but not necessarily safe. Still the real quest has begun. Alvin, seventh son of a seventh son, seeks his long ago vision of the Crystal City, a place where death awaits him.
Volume six of the Alvin Maker alternate earth fantasy series is an exciting tale that can stand alone, but is better read after perusing its predecessors as THE CRYSTAL CITY rapidly moves forward the quest of the hero. Old favorites like the Red Prophet (see volume two) return and Moose and Squirrel amongst others help propel the adventure forward while other cast members enhance the understanding of the essence of Alvin Maker. Still as with the previous five tomes, this book belongs to the hero who must cross troubled waters without adequate bridges (or Simon and Garfunkle – not born yet) as the author pulls out the Ace of Spades from his deck.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner