In early 2014 a book by one of my favourite authors rocked up on my doorstep. Four years ago, I was apparently not in the mood to have the rug pulled out from underneath me, because when I began reading Mirror Sight by Kristen Britain and I quickly realised that one of my favourite characters in all of fantasy literature had been summarily transported forward in time, I was disgusted.
To be fair to four-years-ago-Joshua, it was a hell of a rug pulling. But that’s about all I can allow four-years-ago-Joshua to have because four years later, when I finally realised Kristen Britain had published a sixth book in the series (Firebrand, review coming asap) and it arrived on my doorstep, I put my preconceptions aside and read Mirror Sight for the first time.
Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series had been – until that fateful 2014 day – one of my favourite ever fantasy series. I’ve been quoted as saying "Kristen Britain writes so beautifully that I never want to have to put her books down” – and I was right. Karigan G'ladheon is (as I’ve said) one of my favourite ever fantasy characters, and the idea of a group of rider-messengers/spies is ultimately one of my favourite ever ideas.
All in all, it’s safe to say that until I picked up Mirror Sight Kristen Britain was one of my “favourite ever” writers.
Four years later, and I can safely return to that mindset.
Mirror Sight most assuredly requires a quick readjustment of what you expect from this series. It is set nearly two hundred years into the future and it seems for awhile as if Karigan might be stuck there and we’ll never see any of the previous books’ characters again. I understand why four-years-ago-Joshua disliked what he found, but I wish he had been in a place where he had continued reading despite what he found. If he had kept reading, he would have found a lot more than what he first assumed.
Instead of the handbrake-turn that I thought the author had made, Mirror Sight is simply a lengthier exploration of a necessary time-jump. Karigan has already travelled in time before in this series, but never for this long and never with this much on the line. The far future that Karigan visits has much to teach her about the fate of her time, and much she must remember and learn.
I genuinely enjoyed this book, as it allowed Karigan an opportunity to react to events that are abnormal even for her. The future she visits is essentially 1901 industrial England and is dominated by industrial-level looms – a fascination for the author. The world in which Karigan finds herself is given full shrift, and it is fascinating to see her adapt and still be very much Karigan.
Two things I will point out which irked me, somewhat. As befits a book which creates a time which would be utterly altered and destroyed if things in the past were changed, the future time Karigan visits is disposable – as are its occupants. In this I felt as if the author indulged a little too much in vivisecting and mutilating that which she’d created, safe in the knowledge that “it didn’t really matter anyway” because “none of it will have really happened”. I understand both the premise and the desire, but I found the way the world was tied up at the end all a little too convenient.
Secondly, and more seriously, was Karigan’s sudden life- and personality-altering infatuation with a boy. Karigan has definitely loved and lost, but she’s never let it define her, and never needed to have a man in her life to make her story complete. This was all thrown out the window in Mirror Sight in a sudden change of personality which left me really frustrated. It seemed completely unlike the Karigan that I had read in the previous four books – and I wonder what the Karigan of coming books will be like.
In the end, my initial fear that the rug had been pulled out from underneath me and that the reader had been led down the garden path was unfounded. It was certainly a big swerve, but one that – once you get past the initial set up – not only makes perfect sense but is both captivating and beautifully written. And while much of the second half of the book leaves you a little disconcerted, this can mostly be hidden underneath a roiling and ever-escalating rollercoaster that doesn’t reach its climax until the very end. Even despite the incongruities in Karigan’s character, the emotions she is forced to burden in the last fifth of the book leave the reader wrought and wrung-out.
Mirror Sight might have required a bit more of an effort to read than others in the Green Rider series, but it was nevertheless as worthwhile and enjoyable at the end.
Review by Joshua S Hill
6/10 from 1 reviews
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