This fantasy is based on the real historical characters of Bridei, a young nobleman who ruled the Picts from 554 AD, and his mentor Broichan. The location is what is currently Scotland. This is a beautiful tale told only as Juliet Marillier can do. As in her Sevenwaters Trilogy, she captures the deep emotions of her characters and presents them to the reader in such realitiy that one actually feels the same emotions. A memorable read.
This is a good book. The writing is fairly good, the world well researched and evocative, the action well paced, and the story resolves well emotionally while leaving the larger plot open for the next two novels. Its main flaw is that it seems so terribly familiar. It is an imaginative chronicling of Bridei, son of Maelchon, who ruled the Picts in Scotland in the 11th century, but it could be any number of historical fantasy novels. There is the requisite young boy destined for greatness; his distant but devoted mentor; his boyhood companions, who fall by the wayside; and of course, there is a girl with mystic powers who falls deeply in love with him and who he has sworn to guard but who none of his guardians approves of. There are, of course, obstacles put in the boy's path -- politics and destiny intrude at inopportune times, and everyone goes about making long faces and refusing to listen to each other. Finally, difficulties melt away and the boy steps into the shining light of his destiny as was ordained.
This book did its job well -- I want to read the next one in the series. But I spent the entire time reading it thinking about how I had seen every character before (with the minor exception of Faolan, who I want more of but who would probably disappoint me if I got what I wanted), and how ridiculously simple resolution of everyone's problems would be if they simply sat down and talked to one another. That, I think, was the biggest failing of the book for me; I get so tired of novels where people -- supposedly GREAT people -- make the simple things in life so complicated by refusing to speak of them. It was the same difficulty I had with The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (which of course also featured a young boy destined for greatness), but I was able to rate that novel higher because it didn't have the added annoyance of doomed lovers thrown in.
I wish there was more fantasy written by authors who worked a little harder at developing their conflicts. Take Lois McMaster Bujold's dictum of simply throwing the worst thing possible at her characters and seeing how they do; you wouldn't find as many plots hinging on simple misunderstanding. Follow Patricia McKillip's example and make your characters fundamentally opposed to each other as they are in The Forgotten Beasts of Eld or Alphabet of Thorn, or if you don't want to do that, give them a real opponent -- not assassins that are always bested just in time and an election that is never really in doubt. In short, write about adults, not these perennial teenagers, and especially not precocious youngsters that are more staid and set in their ways than many an old man of eighty.
I simply can not speak ill of this author. Everything she writes is brilliant and the Dark Mirror is no exception. This was an easy read, fast pace and a little suspenseful. It kept me on the edge of my seat wanting more.
excellent and compelling! a great mix of intrigue, characters and histories.
Lovely book! As with Marillier's other novels, this book mixes magical fantasy elements with historical settings and real cultures. The characters are all so vivid and compelling, I love them all!
The premise for The Dark Mirror is deceptively simple - groom a young boy to be king. Oh but what an epic adventure this is and it's only the beginning. You would think this would be a simple thing to accomplish - teach a boy what he needs to know in order to rule a country. But no, the Gods interfer, the Fae interfer, even Briochan (the one training him) does unspeakable things to thwart Bridei's will.
The tale of Bridei and Tuala is fifteen years in the making. From when a very young Bridei finds infant Tuala on the doorstep to rescuing a 14 year old Tuala from human snakes and spies. This is a tale of the adventures (and misadventures) of a 4 year old boy torn from his family (and country) and foraced to give up his childhood to be trained as a scholarly fighting man and/or druid.
Nothing I say can really do credit to this masterpiece. At times harsh and cruel, sweet and tender, it'll make you scream, it'll make you cry, and it'll make you smile. What a treasure to be read again and again.
It'll be interesting to see what kind of relationship remains between Briochan and Bridei after his betrayal. Does Fereta finally find love. Is Ana set free? What happens with Faolin?
I can't wait for The Bridei Chronicles, Book 2 Blade of Fortriu to see what happens next in Fortriu