Given Avi’s extensive career—he has published over fifty books—some discussions of his work simply recount his achievements or defer to his perspective. Because Crispin: The Cross of Lead won the prestigious Newbery Award, focusing on the author himself and his intentions is not necessarily a bad point of departure for a critical discussion: Avi is clearly well aware of what he is doing and of his goals for his books.
Critics who have commented on Crispin praised many elements of it, particularly the way the author works and reworks history to fit his fiction. The character of Bear and the pacing in the later sections are singled out by the anonymous reviewer for Kirkus. Ilene Cooper, writing for Booklist, likewise praises Bear, as well as Avi’s ability to create tension and evoke a medieval world. Cheri Estes also argues that the book is “a page-turner from beginning to end” due to Avi’s plotting, and the reviewers for Publishers Weekly offer similar praise for the book’s construction. More than one critic called for a sequel, a call that Avi answered with Crispin: At the Edge of the World, published in 2006.
Despite the high praise for the novel, not all comments on it have been positive. The Kirkus reviewer claimed the beginning was overwritten and too slow and complained that the lack of explicit historical references will leave some members of its target audience in the dark. Ilene Cooper mentioned similar concerns about the political maneuvers being too complex for the readership.