Review: Obsidian Mirror

Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher. Dial Books for Younger Readers, a member of Penguin Group. 2013. Library copy.

The Plot: Time travel with a magical mirror.

You want more?

There are also the Shee. You know, the cold blooded not-human beings of legend who steal human children and never really age.

You want more?

A present-day boy searching for his father and a future girl looking for a way to save her world.

Did I mention the time travel?

The Good: Did I mention the time travel?

Jake Wilde has deliberately gotten himself expelled from boarding school and sent to Wintercombe Abbey, the home of his enigmatic guardian, Oberon Venn. A teacher is his reluctant guardian on the trip home, but no worries there. It’s Venn’s home, not Jake’s. And Jake has no intention of running away. He wants to confront Venn, convinced Venn has murdered Jake’s father.

Sarah is running. The Replicant is chasing her. She is alone, running, determined. She has a goal: Wintercombe Abbey. And she has a mission. Wintercombe Abbey is familiar, even though it’s not the place she remembers. She talks herself into a job so she can stay and find what she seeks.

Oberon Venn is surprised to see Jake. And when Sarah shows up, he isn’t sure who she is but he thinks he can use her. Oberon Venn is, you see, a man with a mission. His beloved wife is dead. So what to do? Find a way to travel through time to prevent it from happening. Jake’s father, Venn’s loyal friend, was involved.

I don’t want to give too much away about these overlapping stories —  but I really loved how it wove together. Not only is Venn researching time travel, using the Obsidian Mirror, but Sarah has traveled through time to stop him. While she is vague about sharing the details of her own dystopian future, one thing is clear: the cause is the mirror. Destroy the mirror, save the world. So, as you can see, Jake, Venn, and Sarah have competing interests. Jake, to find his father; Venn, to change the past and save his wife; Sarah, to change the future. Not only are there interests in conflict with each other, no one quite knows all the secrets to the Mirror and how it works. So it’s not as simple as finding the Mirror. It’s not as simple as possessing the Mirror.

As you can imagine, this means that there are peaks at Sarah’s future; Jake’s present; and a trip or two to the past as Venn tries to control the mirror.

But wait, you ask, what about the Shee?

All of this time travel stuff — what you might call the science fantasy aspect of the book — is played out against what is happening on the grounds of Wintercombe Abbey. A place where the Shee live, including the Queen of the Wood, and an ageless (or only slowly aging) human, Gideon — a child taken hundreds of years ago. Venn is aware of them; knows about them; and I loved this odd mash up of genre and expectation.

Oh, and trust me: it may seem that I have given too much away. Trust me, I have not. There is still plenty of reveals and plot twists for you to uncover on your own. There is the Scarred Man! And Mortimer Dee! And Moll! My favorite may be Moll.

The Obsidian Mirror has a sequel, The Slanted Worlds, coming out in March.

Other reviews:  Forever Young Adult; The New York Times; The Book Smugglers.


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