Kate's Reviews > The Dark Mirror: Book One of the Bridei Chronicles

The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier
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Should I read it? Probably not. You've seen this story and its characters before. You know it well. It's mediocrity all around. Add to this that the rest of the trilogy doesn't seem that great, either, if the sample of the next book is anything to go by.

What's the short and skinny of it?
Bridei has grown up under Broichan's roof, learning the druidic arts his austere mentor teaches him. In Bridei's spare time, he is taught how to be a good swordsman, horse rider, and sharp political thinker. Unbeknownst to him, he is being trained to become a high king. It's a strict, tiresome, and lonely existence for a child, but everything changes when the Fair Folk leave one of their children to Bridei's young care.

Together, Bridei and Tuala grow up, despite the discomfort Tuala's otherworldly presence brings to those around them, especially to Broichan, who sees her as a nuisance and possible ill omen. As Bridei and Tuala take on the roles of individual adulthoods that have been forced upon them, they must work to stay together, pick apart the lies they're told, and save their kingdom from falling apart under the ravages of political and religious upheaval.

Tell me more.
Years ago, when I was a teenager, I read the first couple of books in Marillier's Sevenwaters series. Having fond memories of her mixture of Celtic history and fantasy, I was looking forward to reading The Bridei Chronicles trilogy as an adult. As my memories of Sevenwaters are now old enough to be unreliable, I can't say whether I've outgrown my taste for Marillier's style or if The Dark Mirror is a weaker book (side note: it isn't rated as well), but I come away feeling the whole package leaves much to be desired.

From the onset, The Dark Mirror does not have a very big or interesting story, despite its having some loose relation to real historical people and events. It perhaps has unique elements to it here and there, but it's essentially filled with story devices we've all seen so many times that readers will almost be able to narrate the tale for themselves. We've all read and watched stories of boys who unwittingly become king, of the powerful sorcerers who shape them, of the women who stand behind their men with obsessive love in their eyes and pining hearts, and of the failed romances that somehow triumph when they obviously wouldn't outside of fantasy. Worse in the case of this book is how easy all of these cliches fall into place for the characters; Marillier fails very badly on the political end of this book.

It's almost hard to believe there are writers still writing these stories, at least in the same exact way they've been written for the last five hundred years. Don't get me wrong. Writers can take cliches and remake them, sculpt them into something new and beautiful; in fact, I love when this is done. Of course, for every one writer who does this, there are five to ten who don't, and Marillier joins the group who doesn't with this book. With another writer at the helm, I would have stopped reading halfway through, but I marched onward, wanting to believe Marillier would deliver at the last minute. If anything, the ending is the most disappointing part of this book; it falls flatly over an already mediocre story.

Speaking of mediocrity, this is one of the worst ebooks I've purchased in terms of its technical quality--and, dear God, that's saying something. I paid $8.00USD for an ebook that is missing commas and periods and is littered with random, dangling punctuation. This is on top of Marillier's frequent misuse of semicolons, which I suppose her agent and editor didn't bother pointing out to her in the mad dash to make money off of another publication. There's just mediocrity at every end of this book and its development, it seems.

It's not a page turner. It's a table turner.

As for the other two books of The Bridei Chronicles, I won't be reading them. With The Dark Mirror's drab ending, I planned only to read the rest of the trilogy if the next book, Blade of Fortriu, had a promising sample. Unfortunately, it appears to go off into another character's side story, leaving those of The Dark Mirror more or less to themselves, as if Marillier felt she created a satisfying start and finish here, when she really did anything but.

While this ebook is horribly put together, the content isn't completely terrible. It's just that this is a very forgettable story--that is, it would be, if you hadn't already seen it written a thousand times before.

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Quotes From the Book
(Apply your own positive/negative connotations.)

His thoughts inhabit a different plane from those of ordinary men; the simplest interpretation of that is to call him crazy.

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Reading Progress

09/13/2011 page 51
09/17/2011 page 253
49.0% "I'd forgotten how much woe Marillier likes to put her characters through."
09/18/2011 page 423
83.0% "As good as this book is, when I pay for an ebook, I expect it to be well edited--free from missing commas and missing periods and random, dangling punctuation. Good work, Macmillan."
09/18/2011 page 512
100.0% "Good book, until the last few chapters. Not terrible, just peters out. Will read the next book in the series if the sample is good."

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