Friday, March 4, 2011

Dark Mirror by M. J. Putney

Friday, March 4, 2011

Lady Victoria Mansfield, youngest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Fairmount, is destined for a charmed life. Soon she will be presented during the London season, where she can choose a mate worthy of her status.

Yet Tory has a shameful secret—a secret so powerful that, if exposed, it could strip her of her position and disgrace her family forever. Tory’s blood is tainted…by magic. When a shocking accident forces Tory to demonstrate her despised skill, the secret she’s fought so hard to hide is revealed for all to see. She is immediately exiled to Lackland Abbey, a reform school for young men and women in her position. There she will learn to suppress her deplorable talents and maybe, if she’s one of the lucky ones, be able to return to society.

But Tory’s life is about to change forever. All that she’s ever known or considered important will be challenged. What lies ahead is only the beginning of a strange and wonderful journey
into a world where destiny and magic come together, where true love and friendship find her, and where courage and strength of character are the only things that determine a young girl’s worth.

Dark Mirror combines several elements that make it difficult to categorize it in one neat genre. At one end of the genre spectrum are the magical qualities and time travel that places it firmly into the fantasy genre, but M. J. Putney also includes historical events from two very different eras making this a very unique historical fiction as well. Finally, the story includes a budding romance, which is enough for some to also consider it a romance. While I have never read a book with elements that include fantasy, historical fiction, and romance I found the combination engaging on all levels.

Beside the fact that I really like all three elements of the different genres in Dark Mirror, another aspect that kept me engaged throughout the book was the various conflicts that propelled the story forward. First, we have Lady Victoria Mansfield, Tory, whose perfect future is destroyed when her magical abilities are revealed. She is sent to Lackland Abbey to be cured and life as she knew it changes forever.

As a conflicted Tory wrestles with being exiled, she does eventually becomes friends with other students at Lackland, who instead of shunning their abilities as London society does, secretly meet in the tunnels underneath the abbey in an effort to hone their skills. Together these students are looking for ways to use their abilities to prevent Napoleon’s army from invading England. When the tunnels are raided one night by school authorities, Tory finds herself transported, via Merlin’s Mirror, to 1940 where she is taken in by relatives of Jack Rainford, a student at Lackland and a weather mage. Learning of the German invasion of France and the drear fate of over a 100,000 British soldiers cornered at Dunkirk, Tory returns to 1803 and enlists the help of her friends who become instrumental in helping with the evacuation of the British forces across the English Channel.

Added to all of the above conflicts, M.J also entangles Tory with Allarde. Their attraction and their future together definitely kept me intrigued, but I would have liked it better had  M.J. spent a little more time fleshing the romance out more. Perhaps that will occur in a sequel. Still, I felt M. J. did a fantastic job weaving so many conflicts together into a coherent and compelling story. I especially liked how Tory and her friends were able to merge their magical abilities to help with the Dunkirk evacuation and learned a little history along the way.

The story is a little long on background and short on action, but I never felt that the pace dragged.  I also thought that M.J. captured the two different eras realistically through her characters and description of the settings.

My final opinion of Dark Mirror is that it is an ambitious YA debut that boldly attempts to combine several different genres by telling a story that melds magic, history, and romance. I would have liked it better if there had been more attention to characterization and hope that this occurs in the next book. I am also very interested in finding out more about Merlin’s Mirror and seeing where else Tory and her friends might end up traveling. 

 Source: Received ARC copy from publisher for review

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