Written by: Catherine Fisher
Published by: Dial Books
Release date: April 23rd, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Source: ARC from ALAMW 2013
Buy: B&N, Amazon
Add on: Goodreads
The obsidian mirror. Its power is great and terrible. Men have been lost in it, the dead brought back to life through it, and the future annihilated by it. Or this is what will happen unless the mirror is destroyed. Three people seek the mirror: the first has been sent from the future to shatter its power; the second will protect the mirror at all costs, obsessed with its power; and the third needs the mirror to find a murdered father and save his life. But only one can succeed.
The mirror can send you to the past, but it will not bring you back.
With superb world-building that includes the real world, the faery world, and a dystopic future, this hauntingly astonishing adventure is the start of a new trilogy from the master of the sci-fi/fantasy genre, Catherine Fisher. Fans of Orson Scott Card, Shakespeare, Grimm, and Blade Runner won't be disappointed.
For the record, I’m big fan of Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron. I really enjoyed that book, and I had high hopes that this new series-opener would live up to, and/or possibly be even better than, Incarceron.
Unfortunately… it didn’t, and it wasn’t. If I had to describe Obsidian Mirror in one word, it would be fractured. (Hah, get it? mirror, fractured… broken glass… ugh, bad mirror joke.)
In all seriousness, though, there was just too much going on. On the surface, the blend of real-world, faery, the sci-fi of time travel, and a dystopian future sounds intriguing. I think this could have been done well. The problem is, it’s told in third-person omniscient, from the perspective of no less than nine different characters.
There’s Jake, who thinks his father was murdered, so he’s out for answers. There’s Venn, obsessed with finding a way to bring his wife back from the dead, and possibly responsible for Jake’s dad’s disappearance. Piers, Venn’s mysterious assistant. Sarah, who’s trying to save the future from being destroyed by the mirror. Gideon, a changeling who wants to escape from the Fey. (Yes! Because Venn’s mansion is for some reason surrounded by the Fey… …I don’t know, don’t ask me.) Wharton, one of Jake’s teachers who randomly got dragged into all this. And Maskelyne, and Symmes, and Rebecca… Did I forget anyone? Probably.
As the story unfolds from the perspectives of each of these characters, we get very short glimpses into their inner thoughts, and their personal history – which, for the most part, is just confusing, because these glimpses are short, and cryptic. There’s no section-breaks or alternating chapters, either – one paragraph might be from Jake’s perspective, and the next from Venn’s, and the next from Sarah’s. Maybe it’s just me (I am not a fan of the multi-POV, third-person-omniscient narrator) – but I found all the skipping around to be highly disorienting. And it felt like there was no room for actual worldbuilding or explanation, because all the energy was spent skipping around getting more fractured details about all the other characters and their own histories.
But by the end (finally), all the details and characters started to feel like the were coming together into some form of coherency – thank goodness. And I did enjoy the last couple chapters, which really upped the excitement and pace of the book. The time-travel / dystopian future / real world all come together, and you begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel. But that understanding is short-lived, because it comes way too late in the story. I feel like Fisher was trying to go for a big “the puzzle is finally coming together!!” feeling at the end; but as it is, it just feels like it took too long to come together.
But after all of that, one of the biggest disappointments for me was the inclusion of the Fey. I was actually really excited when the synopsis sounded like it would seamlessly blend time-travel, dystopian, and faery lore. I am all for blending those genres! Unfortunately, nothing about the presence of the Fey (or
Sidhe Shee, as they’re called here) made sense to me. Why are they even there? What do they have to do with anything? The Shee may have been worked into the story and into some characters’ history, but it didn’t feel organic to the plot at all. There was a line somewhere about their relationship to time, but this never really figured into the main plot.
For me, their entire presence felt like a tacked-on, sort of gimmicky thing, just so the book could somehow include All The Genres! Which was super disappointing, because I do have to say, I think Gideon could have been my favorite character. A changeling who was stolen by the Shee when he was very young, he’s been living with them for centuries, but all he wants is to somehow get back home to his time. I could have loved his character, but again, was given such a brief glimpse that ultimately… I’m not inclined to care. :(
I initially thought I would give this book 3 stars, but in thinking about my time spent reading it, I have to give it 2.5. The fact was, I pushed myself to finish this book, and on more than one occasion considered DNF-ing it. I’m glad I didn’t, because the last few chapters were pretty good – but that payoff took way too long. Actually, overall, Obsidian Mirror felt like a really long prequel, to me. Like one of those short pre-novellas that are supposed to get you excited for the actual books that are coming out later. Maybe if it had been miles shorter, all the fractured perspectives and unanswered questions would have been intriguing rather than just confusing. I’m hoping the next book is able to continue on from where this one left off, though, without all the confusing set-up. Fingers crossed!