Crystal Shards

by Marine Brenier

Twelve-year-old Kit lives alone with her mom and grandma on a small island which a magical crystal keeps thriving in eternal springtime. Somewhere on the ocean are four other islands like hers, each with their own crystal, but Kit has only heard of them through stories. This changes when Mica, a boy from another island, comes seeking help for his home’s dying crystal. One crystal’s death would doom all five islands, including Kit’s. Determined to keep her home safe and armed with her family’s knowledge of crystals, Kit volunteers to help Mica. However, unpredictable people, surprising customs, and lands unlike anything she has ever known stand between her and the crystal she must heal.

About the Author

When Marine was eleven years old, she moved from France to the United States. There, she fell in love with the English language and discovering new landscapes and cultures. A few years later, she went to England to study a BA in Creative Writing and Business Management, followed by an MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. She wrote Crystal Shards, her first novel, while on the course.

Marine is currently enjoying living in Wales, but might move again in a few years as there is still a lot of the world she hasn’t seen.

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Crystal Shards by Marine Brenier, introduced by Jessamy Corob Cook, Freya Norley, Dominic Royston and Ellie Halls

Marine has a real ability to create rich and original landscapes that are fertile ground for adventure. Even more intriguing are the relationships her characters have with these environments. Protagonist Kit, determined to protect her island home and the family she loves, is sure to resonate with young readers. JCC  

Kit is an endearing, adventurous character, and Marine writes her in a wonderfully funny and relatable way. Kit is truly her own person, and as the reader, we feel what she feels. The fantasy elements of the story Marine has created, with an intriguing world of gem-controlled islands, never feel shallow. At the heart of this work is a strong coming-of-age plot with poignant themes of friendship and family. FN

If I had to say one thing about Marine’s stories, it’s that she knows how to write compelling and interesting characters; and Kit is no exception. Marine will quickly wrap you up in her mysterious world, as we learn with Kit about the islands and the crystals that support them. DR

Kit’s story is filled with the promise of magic and adventure as she joins Mica in searching for a way to save their island homes. It deals with the excitement and heartbreak of leaving home, the search for identity, and beautifully illustrates the love and protectiveness felt for family. EH

What was your inspiration for this story?

I was standing on a wild beach, looking out to the sea, and I imagined an island on the horizon. A girl lived there, and the rest of the story grew around her and her home: her family, the magical crystals, and the strange boy from another land.

My love for nature, discovering new landscapes, and experiencing different cultures also influenced the story. My protagonist shares these interests, and her determination to protect those she loves gives her the strength to brave the unknown.

What was your most memorable moment on the MA?

It’s hard to pick just one! We’ve had an unusual year with Covid-19, but I especially loved our workshops. They were a great opportunity to discuss writing with wonderful people. I got to read amazing pieces of writing, and I received insightful and encouraging feedback on my own work.

What is the most important thing you learned on the MA?

The course gave me many great writing tips, but the most important thing I learned was how helpful feedback is. I still workshop with people from the course, because a second pair of eyes will pick up on things I wouldn’t have noticed. External feedback can help a piece grow from good to great!

What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

I like the very beginning of the process, when all I have is a fragment of an idea. I can let my imagination go wild as I experiment with different aspects and try to fit them into a whole story. There would be no full-length novel without the decision to explore that one little idea!

What do you like doing when you’re not writing?

I like reading or doing something creative like drawing or painting. I also love to connect with people, learn new things, and travel to new places. There’s so much of the world to discover!

What is your top piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Keep writing: don’t get held up by your first sentence or your first chapter. Your first draft is supposed to suck. The first chapter you ever write isn’t going to win any awards, but 10 chapters later you’ll be able to look back and see what works and what doesn’t, what you need to improve on and what you’ve already got better at. The only way to progress is to risk making mistakes.

What was your favourite book as a child?

I could never pick a single favourite book, but I did love the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. I think it was the first proper book series I read. I still love books with magic and adventure to this day!

What place in fiction do you most want to visit?

I think I’d visit Narnia. Aside from that whole thing with the White Witch, it sounds pretty fun.