Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney -Review
I just finished reading an ARC (advance readers' copy) of Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney. I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
Dark Mirror is about a girl named Tory who lives in England in the early 1800s. The book is slightly an alternate history story, because in its England, magic is a real thing and is commonplace. Magic is a useful tool embraced by the commoners, but the nobility has been taught to view it as wrong and disgraceful. Tory is the daughter of an earl and looks forward to finding a high-ranking husband. When she discovers that she has magical ability, she is determined to hide it. If anyone finds out about her magic, she could be disowned from her family and rejected by everyone she knows. Despite her resolve to keep her power hidden, she has no choice but to reveal it when an accident occurs. She is sent to Lackland Abbey, where young people of the nobility are sent to be cured of their magic. Once there, she will have to make many choices concerning sacrifice, bravery, duty, and love.
This is a fun book filled with adventure, likeable characters, and magic. I don't think I ever got bored, even during the slower portions of the plot. M.J. Putney combined a rich, realistic-feeling historical setting with a complicated, detailed world of magic. It was fascinating, especially when the magical powers were being explained or when people were learning how they could use their magic in new ways. The magic was also described beautifully and clearly. I looked forward to the magical parts of the story most.
As I was reading and increasingly more characters were being introduced, there was a point where I got concerned that I'd never be able to remember, let alone keep track of, all of the characters. However, they all had distinguishable personalities and important roles to play. I was pleased to discover that I had no trouble keeping all the characters with their personalities and abilities separate in my head. Each person was an interesting character, and I came to care about all of them. I'm now glad that there was such a large cast of characters to enjoy.
Tory, the main character, was a nice choice for a heroine. She was smart, kind, and wanted to do the right thing. It was refreshing to read a book where the main character started off already having some wisdom and strong virtues. That way, Tory could work on building her strengths and adding to them, taking the story deeper than if she'd been a spoiled, selfish child. I really liked that about her.
I only have a few complaints about the book. One is that some of the foreshadowing was too obvious for me. I knew what the inciting incident would be before it happened. (An inciting incident is the first conflict that sets the plot in motion.) The clues were on the pages leading up to it and they stood out clearly to me as hints as to what was about to happen. Also, in the same night that a character mentions preparing for a possible danger, that danger happens. On one page the character was finally discussing the need seriously (even though the need had been there before), and on the next page or so the danger struck. It seemed too set up to me.
Also, the love story did not seem entirely believable to me. It would have been a good romance, but I didn't see how the characters suddenly fell in love with each other. And saying they had a magical connection isn't enough to explain it for me. I would have liked to see more development of the love before the characters were declaring their undying love for each other. Because the love story was not rooted in a deep relationship (at least not that we the readers saw), it made a scene that would have been much more powerful seem just slightly overdramatic. I really wish we'd been allowed to see the relationship develop more. It would have been good.
Speaking of romance, M.J. Putney's history as a romance writer started peeking through here and there. It seemed like she couldn't resist throwing in a little suggestive dialogue between Tory and her love interest. It didn't seem plausible considering what era these characters came from, and it also bothered me. I would have preferred if she'd stuck to keeping the book mostly a fantasy book about magic and adventure.
But aside from those few things that I mentioned above, I really enjoyed Dark Mirror. It had a well-developed setting, an exciting plot, and interesting characters. If there is a sequel, I will most definitely be reading it.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy, history, time travel, or romance.