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There's the temptation to regard the first parts of all the Tintin two-part adventures as lesser scene-setting setting works for the main course - Destination Moon surpassed by the exploits of Explorers on the Moon, The Secret of the Unicorn establishing the adventure in Red Rackham's Treasure, and here with The Seven Crystal Balls clearly being "eclipsed" by the Inca adventures of Prisoners of the Sun. In many ways however there is just as much if not more interest in the earlier parts of these stories, which tend to have a rather more serious tone than is usual in Tintin books whereas their second-halves fall back on the usual exotic adventuring.

This is particularly the case with The Seven Crystal Balls. On the surface, it would seem to be little more than a mature version of the Egyptological themes of one of Hergé's earliest (and consequently most underrated) solo adventures, the hugely entertaining Cigars of the Pharaoh. Once again, the curse of Tutankhamun is evoked in the story of seven scientists who fall into mysterious comas soon after their return from Peru, where they have discovered and unearthed tomb of the legendary Inca King Rascar Capac, removing the mummy from its ancient resting place to take across the ocean for investigation and display in Europe.

The Seven Crystal Balls would seem to be better balanced than the earlier Tintin work in its treatment of the subject of mystic ancient curses, but that doesn't mean that it's necessarily more soberly realistic or any less entertaining as an adventure. If anything, the mystical elements are taken to even greater lengths in The Seven Crystal Balls (the title says it all - the mystic number seven, the telling of dark fortunes), with a tone of dread that is even darker. With greater length to elaborate the story, Hergé masterfully sets up dark premonitions right from the start, as Tintin reads an article about the archaeological discovery in a newspaper on his way to visit the newly aristocratic Captain Haddock in Marlinspike, but it's with a fantastically staged theatre act of audience participation in a mystic seer that raises the tensions considerably as the news of the first victim is dramatically announced.

Not so clearly the victims of a poisonous dart seen in Cigars of the Pharaoh, there are however traces of shattered crystal found at the side of each of the seven victims, which suggests that an earthly hand is involved, but Hergé keeps this wonderfully ambiguous with lightning bolts and dream-like states that bring visions of Rascar Capac coming to life and exacting terrible vengeance. It evokes a potent and palpable atmosphere that carries out throughout the book, the usual slapstick much toned-down here, relating only to an incident between Snowy, a cat and Nestor with a tray of drinks. Even there however, if so inclined, you could associate Snowy's pragmatic headlong attack and ignominious defeat at the claws of rather more mystical feline forces of Haddock's pet cat as a further commentary on what is to come.

Regardless, the tone established by Hergé is consistent and masterful throughout The Seven Crystal Balls, and although that tone changes considerably with the journey to South America in Prisoners of the Sun, the two halves are perfectly complementary, creating a whole that is unquestionably one of Hergé's greatest and most accomplished achievements.
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on 2 December 2001
This is definitely my favourite all-time Tintin book, this is understandably so if you consider the imaginative and somewhat eerie plot. All the characters are there, the Captain, the two detectives, professor Calculus, even Bianca Castafiore makes an unwanted appearance!
The excellent storyline is similar to the tale of Tut-Ankh-Amen as one-by-one explorers of an Inca tomb are struck by a mysterious illness....Truely a fantastic read!
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on 2 December 2001
This is my all-time favourite Tintin book and this is understandably so if you consider the imaginative and somewhat eerie plot. Practically all the characters are there the Captain, Tintin, the two detectives, even Bianca Castafiore makes an unwanted apperance!
The book has a storyline similar to the tale of Tut-Ankh-Amen as one by one explorers of an Inca tomb are struck by a mysterious illness....A truely fantastic read!
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on 7 December 2011
This is one cartoon character which doesn't need any review. Every single story is a favourite of mine and I wish they would turn each of that into a motion picture. An excellent addition to my Tintin collection.
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on 25 April 2010
A masterpiece. Spooky atmosphere juxtaposed with the usual verbal and physical humour. The mysterious first half of the book evolves smoothly into the hunt for Calculus' kidnappers and doesn't jar like, say, the Egypt-India transition in Cigars of the Pharaoh. As with the other two-part Tintin stories, Crystal Balls sets up the premise and establishes the atmosphere vividly, whilst Prisoners of the Sun (also an essential read in its own right) is the action-packed "quest" sequel.

If you're new to the series, this double-header is a good place to start.
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on 30 March 2014
Nothing much actually happens in this book - it's mostly designed to set the scene for the following.

If (like me) you're collecting an entire set of TinTin hardbacks this is a must. If you're only reading the occasional one, or buying as a gift I suggest you give this a miss.
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on 12 October 2012
This is an attractive cartoon strip adventure story, with great illustrations. I think it is best enjoyed after reading earlier books in the series so that the reader is familiar with the different characters. It is quite important to realise that this is the first part of a two-part story. The second book is "Prisoners of the Sun". Children might be disappointed when they reach the end of the first book if they haven't got the second book to read!
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on 1 November 2014
It's Tintin, what's not to like. It's in there with Prisoners of the Sun (the follow up to this one), Destination Moon/Explorers on the Moon, Black Island, Tintin in Tibet (my all time favourite) Secret of the Unicorn/Red Rackham's treasure etc all though I wasn't enamoured with The Blue Lotus or The Broken Ear.
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on 19 December 2011
My daughter recieved this as a birthday present. Great story! She absolutely loved it. Would recommend it to everyone. Great gift.
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on 12 February 2015
Nice collection of hardback books. Great illustrations. Husband is very happy with the full set.
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