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A Distorted Reflection – A review of Dark Mirror by M. J. Putney

This review will contain a massive spoiler for this book that you need to know. I don’t want you to react the same way that I did when I read this.

Dark Mirror has two sides, what the author tells you the book is about vs. what the book is actually about.

This is what they tell you: Dark Mirror follows Lady Victoria Mansfield, who has to have her recently discovered magical abilities oppressed in order for her to regain her birthright. She goes to Lackland Abbey with the intent to get it rid of her and home to a family who will love her again, but instead winds up embracing it in a literal underground group who intend to protect England.

They didn’t tell you that there was also time travel involved. Crucially involved. But not until the novel’s midpoint.

When that happened I encountered a massive “WTF” moment, literally the same three words repeating in my head over and over. It was barely foreshadowed or set up aside from the vague title, which tells us that there will be a Dark Mirror involved but not what it does. This made the book seem like two ideas tacked onto each other with two completely separate stories because thereafter the tension and conflict established in the first half became trivial. Now I see that it may be a setup for the rest of the series, but those ends still wind up waving in the wind while the ties of the second half were all neatly plaited together. They were just abruptly cut. New strings of stories were tied onto those ends.

I feel more comfortable talking about this novel in two halves, so I shall do so.

The first half was a great setup of what I thought would be the story I was about to read. Characters were established well, as well as the direction of Tory’s arc. The stakes were evident and investing. The mood worked incredibly well also. Tory’s emotional depth was explored really well in this section as she fought between the selfish need to oppress her magic and the selfless need to use it for the good of her country. She was great as an insecure character.

When the second half came along it turned it into an entirely different story, and I would have appreciated it more had it not been the second half of a completely different story. More compelling characters were introduced with interesting needs and goals, and the whimsy of Tory in a new environment made her seem different from her counterpart. This would have worked better for her had this been her primary story.

I keep talking down this book from that who two story standpoint, mainly because both tales lost their potential being spliced together. But somehow it kind of worked? I do intend to put the next book in the series on my TBR, only now that I know what the story will be like. With this in mind, the second installment in the trilogy I expect will be far more appealing to me.

Favourite Character

Jack Rainford was charming. I fell for him the instant he was introduced – a teaser and joker with still serious goals. He provided much of the comic relief, but still had great depth. He was even more compelling that Tory’s love interest to the point where I thought they’d get together instead.

Favourite Chapter

Chapter 17 was were the A story stakes were at their highest. It was very investful chapter that really got me hooked into that part of the story.

Favourite Serious Quote

“… All you poor, talented aristocrats are raised to hate yourselves. Only a few have the courage and wit to break out and learn how to be real mages.”

I am all for self acceptance and expression! As simple as this quote is, it really stands by me.

Overall Verdict

The story felt indecisive, but all worked out anyway. Dark Mirror gets a score of 3.5/5.

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