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The Mirror #1

Broken Wish

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Hanau, Germany

Sixteen-year-old Elva has a secret. She has visions and strange powers that she will do anything to hide. She knows the warnings about what happens to witches in their small village of Hanau. She’s heard the terrible things people say about the Witch of the North Woods, and the malicious hunts that follow. But when Elva accidentally witnesses a devastating vision of the future, she decides she has to do everything she can to prevent it. Tapping into her powers for the first time, Elva discovers a magical mirror and its owner—none other than the Witch of the North Woods herself. As Elva learns more about her burgeoning magic, and the lines between hero and villain start to blur, she must find a way to right past wrongs before it’s too late.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published October 6, 2020

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About the author

Julie C. Dao

11 books1,241 followers
Julie C. Dao is the critically acclaimed author of many books. Her novels have earned starred reviews from Booklist, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly, and won recognition from the Junior Library Guild, YALSA, and the American Library Association. A proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York, she now lives in New England.

Pronunciation: JOOL-lee DOW
Pronouns: She/Her

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 307 reviews
Profile Image for Yun.
521 reviews21.8k followers
March 17, 2021
"Where magic gives, it can also take--in ways that no one can foresee."
I've enjoyed tremendously every book I've read by Julie Dao, so when I saw that she had a new one out, the first of a four-book series where each is written by a different author (how unusual), I was intrigued. I confess I snatched it up so fast I almost got whiplash.

The series follows four generations of a family both blessed with magical powers and plagued by a curse that haunts them. In this first book, Broken Wish, we see how the curse comes to be, and follows strong-spirited Elva as she masters her powers and tries to save her family.

Going in, I was immediately drawn to the magical feeling and the fairy tale atmosphere of this story. There was so much goodness all around, but also a lot of darkness. It was great fun to immerse myself in this tale that appeals to the inner child in me. It reminds me of being young and optimistic, and it was very comforting.

Just like any fairy tale, this one has great lessons to be learned. I love the strong female characters in here, in particular Elva and Mathilda. They're both resourceful and courageous, staying true to who they are on the inside, even when outside pressure tries to force them to take a more conforming path. They're also looking for acceptance and belonging in a world that is prejudiced against who they are. (Sound familiar? No wonder Disney chose to throw their weight behind this series.)

This isn't gritty or cynical, nor will it leave you wrecked after reading it. And I can't even say the ideas in here are all that unique. Rather, it is unapologetic in what it is: a feelgood fairy tale, and it's a darn good one.

Fairy tales aren't just for kids, and this book is the perfect example of that. I was swept away by its magic, and it reminded me of why I still come back to them as an adult, again and again.

P.S. This book has such a gorgeous cover. A word of caution though: don't look at the inside back cover, because there's a small but obvious spoiler on there, which I stumbled upon as I was investigating the beautiful design. D'oh!
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,307 reviews44k followers
February 3, 2021
Wow! This was fast pacing, entertaining, well-written, riveting story! It’s also dark, depressing and intense with the alluring vibes of Grimm Brothers’ bloody eerie fairy tales meet Tim Burton’s gothic world building. And I have to congratulate the talented illustrator who created this remarkable book cover!

This is extra special event for me to start this book because this is the first time I received an ARC from Disney ( At least 10 rejections later as I see the book at my virtual bookshelf, I thought it was not real and they only give arc copies to Disney princesses and villains! They proved me wrong! -Of course there’s a still chance that they could have mistaken me for Cruella De Vil!-)

The best things I truly enjoyed:
Poignant story line with powerful messages:

This is not only a magical story about witches’ world, extraordinary abilities, paranormal powers. This is a strong story about trust, loyalty, women’s devoted friendship with feminism vibes. It’s about two broken hearted women’s emotional story who are looking for acceptance of the people surrounded them and their struggle to be a part of world whose people are so adamant to be judgmental, cruel, viciously criticizing. Being different, unique and expressing yourself freely may turn into an unforgettable crime in that world!

I both love Mathilda and Elva and their strong bound. They were like master and apprentice, elder and young sister kind of close relationship melted my heart.

World building:
Hanau, a small town’s portraits located in 19th century’s Germany, was well described and the cameos of Grimm Brothers who were recently seen at the town’s bar to learn more about magical stories also entertaining.

Conclusion: Satisfying and intriguing enough to encourage you read the upcoming books of the series!

Quick summary of the story: Agnes Heinrich and her husband spends all their money to buy a dilapidated cottage at Hanau, for starting fresh. But their neighbor is rumored to be a witch named Mathilda who is shunned away, living isolated, lonely life and Agnes empathizes with her. They also had hard times because of the gossips about her husband’s family. They become friends.

Agnes wants a big family with kids but she cannot conceive a baby and Mathilda offers her help with her magical powers. Agnes finds herself stuck in dilemma: she has to cut her relationship with Mathilda after getting her help because they may stake their reputation if someone finds out they are friends with town’s witch, but this means she will use Mathilda’s powers for own benefits and break her heart.

And yes, as you may imagine she breaks her friends’ heart and used her powers to become a mother. But this broken wish comes with curse: Her daughter Elva can see the future as she looks at the glass or the reflection of the water. Now Agnes is worried that town’s people may find out her daughter’s powers and exile her from the land.

Elva finds her mom’s correspondences with Mathilda and she realizes she is the only one who may help her which means she needs to go to journey in the North Woods to face with her own destiny and meet with the town’s haunted witch.

Overall: I always mesmerize with the magical, lyrical world of Disney works which brings out singing, dancing inner child of me! I read this book at one sit and I cannot wait to read the other books in near future.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Disney Hyperion for sharing this incredible ARC in exchange my honest thoughts.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 11 books1,241 followers
September 23, 2020
Hey all! I guess this is the best time to visit this Goodreads page, before the book starts to circulate and reviews come in!

In case you missed it on Instagram and Twitter, BROKEN WISH is my dark fractured fairy tale coming October 6, 2020 from Disney! It's the first in a four-book series called The Mirror (all written by different authors) about a curse that spans multiple generations of the same family. I am kicking off the series with the first branch of the family tree and detailing how the curse first began in 1800s Germany, with a young girl named Elva who meets her destiny when she goes looking for the Witch of the North Woods.

The book takes place in Hanau, which is the birthplace of the Brothers Grimm -- a perfect setting since my story pays tribute to classic dark fairy tales told on cold winter nights.

BROKEN WISH has everything I love: magic, romance, dark woods full of legend and mystery, and complicated, misunderstood women.

I truly hope you'll all enjoy the story!


Editing to add content/trigger warnings:

Infertility, racism (mentioned, not depicted), sexism, homophobia (mentioned, not depicted), prejudice against magic wielders, light physical injury (broken bones), family death and grief
Profile Image for Shannara.
448 reviews81 followers
April 8, 2021
Omg!!!!! The next in the series is going to be released soon!!!! If you haven’t read this, you need to stat!!!

This deserves all the stars in the galaxy! All!!!!! I started reading it and couldn’t stop. Every moment between work, children, and the few hours of sleep (that I was forced to take because my kindle died!!!!) I was devouring this book. It is by far, the most magical book I’ve read this year. That’s saying a lot because I’ve read a couple others that were really wonderful.

I fell immediately in love with Mathilda and Agnes and their friendship. The rest of the story tumbled out so gracefully that it was easy to lose track of time. The world they live in is reminiscent that the Grimm brothers and so many lovely fairytales built; which took me straight back to my childhood. The North woods especially was my favorite. How can you not adore a forest filled with magic, witches, and fairy rings?! I mean, besides the lost children and whatnot... 🤦🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️

Elva is the best main character because she was easy to love, understand, and relate to. It helps that she has a big beautiful heart like I always imagine a Disney Princess would have. Her love for her family and desire to protect them is beautiful. The relationship she has with Cay and then with... well without spoiling anything, Elva’s friendships are something to aspire to.

What’s best of all is the plot. I didn’t want to even blink for fear of missing any of the amazing story that was unfolding before me. I’ll not give any of it away because I want you to read and love it on your own. As in I recommend the lovely book to everyone. Lovers of fairytales, love, friendship, family, and the struggle to always do the right thing. This book is for you. So stop perusing the reviews and start reading Broken Wish as soon as you can!. You won’t regret it!!! I promise.

Thank you so very much, from the bottom of my heart, to Disney Hyperion and NetGalley for allowing me to read this book for my honest and unbiased opinion!!!!
Profile Image for jenny✨.
578 reviews838 followers
October 10, 2020
10/09/2020: I once made a wish for publication day to arrive already... AND IT'S COME TRUE.

✨Where magic gives, it can also take—in ways that no one can foresee.

FOR BEST READING EXPERIENCE: Play "For Good" from Wicked on repeat so you can wallow in your feels some MORE ଘ(ᵕ˵ ૩ᵕ)━☆゚.*・。゚

Every family curse starts somewhere. This one just so happens to involve a stunning story about women at the margins of society—women who seek acceptance, form life-changing friendships, and stand up for each other even when it puts them at odds with the people they love.

When I found out about The Mirror series, I was majorly intrigued: four books by four authors that follow the descendants of one cursed family? UM, YES.

Their history spans four cities and nearly two centuries, taking us from a tiny German village to the speakeasies of New Orleans, to San Francisco and finally the skyscrapers of post-9/11 New York. And Broken Wish kicks off this saga with a FLOURISH.


Hanau, Germany, 1848: Agnes Heinrich befriends Mathilda, a mysterious woman the town calls witch. Their friendship is pure and uplifting—until the day Agnes betrays Mathilda, breaking a promise that will haunt her family for generations.

Hanau, Germany, 1865: For sixteen years, Elva Heinrich has struggled to repress her magical abilities: when she looks into a reflective surface, the visions she sees inevitably come true. But when she glimpses a devastating future for her family, Elva sets out to find the only person who can help and understand her now—the witch Mathilda.


I think in a lot of ways, the women of Disney find themselves with the same fervent wish: to be accepted for who they are.

Mathilda lives deep in the North Woods, shunned by the townspeople of Hanau and surrounded by cruel taunts and rumours. Meanwhile, Elva leads a seemingly normal life with her loving family and handsome Willem—but all this life, she has been told she's unnatural and dangerous. When Mathilda teaches Elva the value and beauty of her abilities, and Elva in turn coaxes hope for friendship into Mathilda’s heart, the girl and the woman help each other make that wish—acceptance—come true.

And Broken Wish captured these themes with utter lyricism. Julie C. Dao's prose is tidy and lush, sketching out scenes and details with such vividness. I get major Shannon Hale and Gail Carson Levine vibes from her writing and world-building (including more of a middle-grade than YA feel, if I'm being honest). Most of all, though, I see the same themes that make Elphaba from Wicked so heartachingly compelling.

“I knew from a young age that I wanted to become a great witch… But I also knew that if I did, I would have to give up the world.”

I really adored this one, y’all. Mathilda and Elva let no man come between them—though many try—and this is the sort of representation I want to see more in stories, especially Disney fables. And though their ending is far from happy, their love for each other ends up changing each of them… for good.


CONCLUSION: Broken Wish gives voice to the women at the margins of fairy tale society in a story that’s both painful and uplifting. I absolutely CANNOT wait to see how the story will continue—in New Orleans, with a Heinrich boy and a Black girl with enchanted shoes…

Many thanks to NetGalley and Disney Publishing Worldwide for this gorgeous e-ARC!
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,204 reviews3,685 followers
October 18, 2020
Actual Rating: 3.5 stars

Broken Wish is the first book in a fantasy series that is very intriguing. It follows a cursed families over generations, with each book being written by a different YA author. This first installment is set in 1865 Germany and lays the groundwork for following books. I want to say up front that I think I would have loved this more if I was an actual teenager, but I still think there's a lot to like and I'm interested in continuing with the series.

Thematically this is a book about acceptance, being true to yourself, and the dangers of caring more about what people think than about doing what's right and being kind to outsiders. I think the messaging here is fantastic and always timely. We get a fairly well-developed magic system for a fairytale, although that sometimes comes with heavier exposition than I prefer. The main character is Elva, a sixteen-year-old girl with a secret magical ability and a family curse tied to a broken promise her mother made to a witch. Set in a time and place where powerful women were feared and persecuted, we see this struggle of what it means to be different when that is not accepted. I won't say too much more about the plot, but I generally liked the direction it took.

The first third of this book was incredible and completely sucked me in. Much of it focuses on Elva's mother as a young wife and her complicated relationship with Mathilda who is believed to be a witch. It's tightly written and emotionally compelling. The later portion reads much more like YA directed at teenagers, and I had more mixed feelings about it, but I'm also not the target audience. This is where we follow Elva and her getting to know Mathilda. A lot of my struggle is that Mathilda behaves and responds like a teenager, not like a grown woman and I had a hard time taking her seriously or finding her believable as a character in this section. Elva can be overly optimistic and naive, but she's 16. If I was a teenager, that might not have bothered me.

Overall, I think this is a strong start to a series that will be great for teens and I'm curious to see where it goes. I received a copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Wren (fablesandwren).
675 reviews1,506 followers
October 1, 2020
Thank you so much to Net Galley and to the publisher for providing me with an eARC of this gorgeous book.

This book seriously surprised me. I wanted to read it because I have a soft-spot in my heart for Julie C. Dao (her Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is one of my favorite anti-hero books ever), but honestly wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did. This book talks about so many hard topics like prejudice, revenge and being good vs bad.

A married couple moves to a town to get away from a reputation the husband didn't deserve. He didn't get any money from his father (it all went to his legitimate son) and he just wanted to start somewhere new so they can be upstanding and loved citizens of a community. When his wife becomes friends with someone who is considered an outcast, she has to make a decision to either keep a friendship she has come to cherish or follow her husband on the path of becoming loved by the community.

Her choice is a ripple effect.

Fast forward a few years and the wife has a daughter who seems to have a lot of the same abilities that her friend has. She has another hard decision : hide that part of her daughter or let her daughter shine.

This book deals a lot with witches and how people perceive them (I've been trying to tip-toe around not mentioning witches, but here we are). I honestly thing the author did a fantastic job bringing together how hate and prejudice can not only effect the person it is aimed towards, but the community that they are apart of. This just reinforces my life motto : just be kind.

The writing and story telling reads just like a fairy-tale and I am excited to see what the next author is going to do with this family lineage!
Profile Image for Morgan.
135 reviews146 followers
March 28, 2021
As part of my pre-read review I said Broken Wish sounded amazing and the concept was - but I found a handful of issues throughout the story that really took away from the spectacular premise and left me underwhelmed. I will be honest, Broken Wish is what I would consider a 'dream book' of mine and though I try very hard to avoid my expectations from skyrocketing before I actually read the book, Soon as I saw Brothers Grimm, Magic, and 1800s Germany, I had already disappeared to a dark corner of my mind imaging all the possibilities Dao could take with this idea. Broken Wish might have suffered from my expectations conjured from my mind but nonetheless, I would have (personally) liked to see some aspects crafted and emphasized a little more so BW could have lived up to its potential.

My first issue was I felt like not a lot happened during the actual book. Using one of my favorite phrases (If I can call it that) Broken Wish lacked 'oomph'. The plot was entertaining but very linear, nothing caught me by surprise and I could easily guess what was going to happen next in the story. When a book is sold as Bother's Grimm, witches, and magic I suppose I was expecting something a little more bold and gritty than essentially our main character, Elva, trying to befriend the local witch and hone in on her powers (which is quite completely covered in the synopsis). I especially expecting more darkness considering the sentence " and the lines between hero and villain start to blur" in the synopsis. Where was the villainous energy? It was quite clear that was not going to be the route taken in the story from the very first page so what was the point in teasing the concept and getting my hopes up? This just added 'fuel to the flame' of me expecting a darker (or Grimm?) story. Overall, It seemed to me that Broken Wish's main purpose is to set the stage for the remaining books in the series.

The one portion of the story that I did think lived up to its potential was the ending. Without giving much away, I loved how some of the classic components of Grimm's fairy tale appeared and really set the eerie vibe I was looking for throughout the whole book.

For the writing, it had great flow and was a very easy read but Broken Wish gave me more middle-grade vibes than YA. The diction and language seemed very basic and, tying back into the plot, seemed to lack the complexity I have come to expect in young adult books. Not that I have an issue with middle-grade books, I just was expecting something a little different than what I received. But perhaps Disney YA is different than other publishers' definition of a young adult book. Broken Wish seemed to dance around the darker possibilities of the story (as mentioned above) in a true Disney fashion and put more emphasis on friendship, emotions, and the good that everyone holds in their heart.

Building slightly off of friendship and emotions and my desire for a gritter book when I read that there is a witch who lives in the North Woods, known for being cruel and placing curses on those who wrong her (in true witch fashion), I, again, was not expecting the portrayal of our neighborhood witch.

All that being said, I really think a majority will enjoy Broken Wish. For me personally, I wanted a little more complexity and a lot more darkness (sorry!) and was left unsatisfied. I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the series plays out, especially considering that different people are writing each book, which is wholly unique and I am completely excited for - maybe I will discover some new favorite authors!


1800s Germany + magic and fairy tales? This sounds amazing, I'm so excited !!

Profile Image for Charlie Anders.
Author 151 books3,790 followers
May 6, 2021
I adored this fable about a teenage girl who discovers that her mother was once friends with the Witch of the North Woods. This book references the Brothers Grimm a fair bit, and has a definite Grimm feel to it, but also packs all the warmth and emotional insight of a great YA book. At the heart of this story is the conflict between friendship and social conformity, and it's a rich vein. Elva's mother was friends with Mathilda, the local witch, until Elva's father started to fear what the neighbors would say about this friendship. Now Elva's family is under a curse because her mom betrayed Mathilda, and meanwhile Elva is manifesting magical powers. Like her mom, Elva befriends Mathilda, but she hopes to make things turn out differently this time around — by standing by Mathilda and being there for her. Elva's naive belief that she can challenge the townspeople's bigotry against the witch, even after she learns about the bad things the witch really did do, feels so relatable and potent, and is a great metaphor for all kinds of struggles against prejudice and othering. This is a great launch to a four-book series, with each installment written by different authors, and I'm excited to read the rest.
Profile Image for Mara.
1,637 reviews3,889 followers
July 5, 2022
3.5 stars - This was a really lovely version of a YA fantasy retelling. I'm bumping up a .5 star due to it "going there" with the ending in a way that I did not expect. Will continue in the series
Profile Image for Alexa.
2,214 reviews11.7k followers
July 17, 2020
3.5 stars! I flew through through this story. It does take on some very familiar tropes, to be sure. But I liked the fairytale feel, and the fact that it sets up quite nicely for the rest of the series.
Profile Image for Kaya.
379 reviews64 followers
Want to read
April 3, 2020
four different authors covering multiple generations dealing with a magic mirror? and this one involves The Brothers Grimm? I NEED THIS NOW.
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,423 reviews215 followers
February 15, 2022
Broken Wish is the first book in The Mirror series. In it, you will Elva. She is about sixteen years old and has a secret. It's mostly about having to keep her powers and such hidden. Which can be easily said than done really. Or maybe that's just the common theme in books nowadays? Either way, I enjoyed getting to know Elva and watching her grow on this magical journey.

Now, yes, the magical aspects were pretty cool in this book. Especially since things didn't come that easily to our main character. As she was learning to navigate through it all, so did we. So, yeah, it was nice to see how things happened throughout this book. Other than that, I really liked seeing other themes like friendship, trust, and loyalty too. It made sense since Elva is still pretty young and doesn't know who to trust or not just yet.

In the end, I really enjoyed this book. Like so much that I dove into the sequel of this series right after. I'm a little sad that the third book isn't available just yet, but I can happily wait.
Profile Image for Joyce.
659 reviews
February 12, 2022
Thank you so much to Disney Publishing Worldwide and Netgalley for Broken Wish by Julie C.Dao!.

Broken Wish is the first in a four book series. And prepare yourself, because all novels in this series are written by different authors. This series revolves around multiple generations of the same family dealing with a family curse. In this one, we are transported in Hanau (which surprise! Is the birthplace of the Brothers Grimm) and we are sucked into the storyline of the origin of the curse.
This book was a fast pace read. It was well-written and oh so entertaining. And can we please talk about the cover? It is STUNNING.
This story had an eerie and dark vibe (which was a perfect October read). However, don’t let that fool you, because this book had such powerful messages as well. This story emphasized trust, loyalty and friendship. I love how Elva and Mathilda found acceptance in each other. People were soo cruel and judgemental. I’m happy they had each other. Elva was an amazing main character. She had one of the biggest hearts. I love how she valued her family, especially her little brother Cay.
The ending…really got me. It emphasized how powerful “love” is. The power of love has truly changed all of them. The ending broke me.
I cannot wait to read the rest and see how this curse affects the generation to come. I’m hoping many of what we get in the first will connect with the second.
Want to read
April 14, 2020

Literally two days after I post this review we get a cover reveal... amazing!!

"Family curses start somewhere" YES

Ugh, I'm so freaking excited for this. I won't be able to wait.

Come sooner, October...


Oh my gosh, a four book series from the powerhouse Julie C. Dao. Multi-generational. Multi-generational!! I am so excited for this!! And - this October!!

*quarantine happy dance*
Profile Image for Fanna.
992 reviews533 followers
Want to read
September 25, 2020
September 24, 2020: give me a mix of history and classic tales, please, thank you very much
Profile Image for Dianne.
6,773 reviews574 followers
September 16, 2020
The time is the mid-nineteenth century in a small German village filled with superstitions and fear of the unknown or the “different.” For sixteen-year-old Elva, keeping her growing powers of magic a secret is becoming more and more difficult. She knows what happens to witches and she’s heard the horrors of meeting up with the Witch of the North Woods.When she sees a vision of devastating proportions, she must find a way to prevent what happens without revealing her secrets. Must she find the feared witch to attempt to get the help she needs? What she discovers is far from what she has ever known, now it is a race against time to undone the wrongs of the past to change a dark and horrible future. The answers may lie in the magical mirror she found…

BROKEN WISH by Julie C. Dao is a haunting tale of secrets, pain, deceit and fear as one girl risks everything to save those she loves and the only life she has ever known.

Ms. Dao has created an atmosphere of magical proportions with her words! Enter into the past where times were simpler, yet more complicated, isolated and fear of the unknown or different are treated as evil. Feel the desperation of one girl as she befriends the mysterious witch and learns of the betrayals she has endured. Rich descriptions, amazing characters with flaws and pain and the innocence, this tale is like falling into another time and place where magic is possible.

Prepare to be saddened, angered and feel the fear these characters feel. Elva is a positive and strong young female character role model and this story highlights the pain people can inflict through ignorance and selfishness.

Wonderfully written! Julie C. Dao is an author to watch!

I received a complimentary ARC edition from Disney-Hyperion! this is my honest and voluntary review.

Series: The Mirror - Book 1
Publication Date : October 6, 2020
Publisher : Disney Hyperion (October 6, 2020)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Print Length : 320 pages
Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
For Reviews, Giveaways, Fabulous Book News, follow: http://tometender.blogspot.com
Profile Image for akacya ❦.
1,040 reviews171 followers
September 22, 2022
elva has a secret: she sees visions of the future, and they always come true. what she doesn’t know is that before her conception, her mother had a witch friend she betrayed. but elva realizes to save her family, she might just need to reach out to that witch.

this was an amazing fantasy book! for some reason i thought this would lean more toward the younger ya side when i started this but that wasn’t the case at all, which i’m grateful for.

i really loved elva and reading about her. apparently the future books in this series will follow people further down the family tree, and i can’t wait to meet them! here’s to hoping the family curse is somehow taken away.

the concept for this series is so cool and i’m excited to see where it goes through the other authors!

source: my local library via hoopla
Profile Image for Mishma.
352 reviews69 followers
October 6, 2020
Check out Julie's interview on my blog and enter to win a copy of Broken Wish!

Read my full review on my blog Chasing Faerytales

Julie C.Dao has pretty much established herself as a master in dark and twisty fairytale retellings. Following up from the deliciously dark and sweeping Forest of a Thousand Lanterns duology and companion, her latest book is a dark and bittersweet fairytale that sets up the stage for a series that follows a curse that spans multiple generations of the same family. In Broken Wish, we are introduced to the curse’ origin, set in the backdrop of the quaint town of Hanau in 1865 Germany, the town that originated the Grimm Brothers and their fairytales.

The book employs so many well loved and known fairytale tropes. There’s also a hint of tales we love – a little bit of Rapunzel, little bit of Snow White, and a little bit of Beauty and the Beast. There were superstitions surrounding numbers, wishing wells, and old wives tales of witches who eat children. The familiarity is so soothing, and it helped set up the fairytale feel of the overall story. It definitely reads more like upper MG than a YA novel – and I really loved the liberty the book takes without compromising on the tone and impact.
Profile Image for USOM.
2,464 reviews203 followers
October 15, 2020
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Broken Wish immediately begins with a fairy tale atmosphere. It's a story about those wishes and desires we have that seem small but start an avalanche. At its heart, Broken Wish is a story about desire, promises, and sacrifice, but it's also a story about societal pressure. How we can let society change our opinions of people, to shun people and smooth us all down. The desire to be respected and wanted is a powerful current that can carry us away or let us drown.

Should we have to hide who we are to be accepted? Combined with our fear of rejection, are we destined to live a life of loneliness? These fears make Broken Wish a story about fairy tales, curses, and promises we make in desperation. Yet at the same time, it feels relatable in those words of gossip that change our minds, the jokes we find ourselves laughing along to in order to not be left in silence. Because at the heart of this story, is one of mistakes and what we will to atone for our guilt.

full review: https://utopia-state-of-mind.com/revi...
October 15, 2020

As a child, when she had asked her mother if fairy tales were real, her mother had replied: "Truth of a tale lies in where it took its first breath."

The Good
– Interesting dynamics between complex women and girls
– Elva's unflinching kindness and goodness
– Mathilda is easy to empathize with
– Solid storytelling
– Lovely sensory details

The Bad
– Slow start / beginning doesn't grab you
– Dao's writing style is clunky and rough around the edges
– Romance between Elva and Willem is a hard sell
– Predictable at times

(Thank you to NetGalley and Disney Hyperion for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review!)

1848: Agnes and Oskar have recently moved to the little town of Hanau, Germany, escaping the stigma surrounding Oskar, who grew up a bastard. Agnes has befriended their shy neighbour through the exchange of letters and goods, despite Oskar's disapproval and gossip that Mathilda is a witch. Overjoyed with her new friend, the lonely Mathilda offers Agnes a concoction to cure her infertility. In exchange, she asks Agnes promise to remain her friend. Agnes takes the concoction, but between nosy neighbours and Oskar's fear Hanau will shun them, she stops responding to Mathilda's letters. Shortly after, Agnes finds herself pregnant and that Mathilda, heartbroken, has moved deep in the North Woods.

1865: Elva, daughter of Agnes, sees helpful visions in reflective surfaces. At her parents behest, she has hidden and avoided her abilities. Between catching a vision of a dreadful storm wrecking her family's farm, her mother's insistence that a curse plagues the family, and discovering letters between Agnes and a woman who might be the witch of North Woods, Elva seeks out Mathilda for magical aide.

Something really cool about The Mirror series is that's it's generational saga about a family curse, told over four volumes by four different authors of colour. In this regard, Broken Wish reminded me a little of R.L. Stine's Fear Saga, but like, if the central forces of the story were the power of kindness and female friendship, and not gore and vile humanity.

Dao does a good job building the tension up over the length of the story. We've seen this type of story before, so we KNOW something bad's going to happen, but between Mathilda's loneliness and Elva's steadfast warm heart, it's easy to root for the best possible outcome. Dao's also provided ample evidence for both the fearful villagers and for the goodness in people to come out on top. We see how Agnes has raised her children to be kind and doggedly reject gossip and how Elva's powers are occasionally celebrated, but we also hear the empty-headed gossip about Mathilda and how quick people assign blame to her.

Broken Wish's weakest point was the beginning. It's not a poor start, but it goes on a bit too long and it's hard to attach ourselves to Agnes when we know she's not the main character. Also, given Agnes and Mathilda's exchange of letters combined with Elva's ability to see into the past, Dao could easily work these parts into the book as it went along.

Dao's done a solid job on the setting. Some food and clothing choices seemed intentionally vague, but her grasp of daily life and descriptions of the area sold the place and time period.

Although the story opens with Agnes, it is Elva and Mathilda at the heart of Broken Wish.

Mathilda is a bitter woman with a closed heart. Time and time again, society has proven she cannot trust it. At best, people will use her for their own gain while keeping her at a distance. At worst, they will hunt and condemn her to death. After Agnes broke her promise to remain friends, Mathilda packed up and retreated deep into the North Woods, hiding herself behind walls of both the emotional and magical sort.

Enter Elva.

Elva is furiously kind and deeply good-hearted. Her ability to see into the future means she has something in common with Mathilda that Agnes didn't, and she wants to believe she can use this ability to bring happiness and prevent strife. Don't make the mistake of confusing Elva for a pushover: Elva is determined and willing to do what needs doing. She slowly cracks open the shell around Mathilda's heart with her unrelenting kindness and steadfast belief in others,

I found Mathilda to be more relatable than Elva or Agnes, but then again, I was the Weird Kid in school growing up. While she opened up at a realistic pace, her behaviour was too polarized. It felt more Bitter Mathilda and Open Mathilda were two completely different characters, rather than one character after different experiences.

Elva isn't as dynamic a character as Mathilda, but she does a great job as our main POV character: she's likeable and she gets things done. Her character arc is steady, believable, and the end of it reveals her greatest flaw in such a perfect and painful way.

Dao's greatest strength in all her characters is easily establishing their motivations and letting those motivations drive the characters in a way that is both clean and straightforward, but not heavy-handed.

Elva's romance with Willem is a tricky thing. They have their ups and downs, and Dao certainly describes Willem in a swoon-worthy manner, but Broken Wish isn't a book you read for the romance, like, say, The Wrath and the Dawn. Their romance is a subplot and it functions like one. You want it to work out for them because Elva is a good person you want good things for, but Willem isn't one of those guys who gets assigned "book boyfriend" status. Sorry, romance fans.

Writing Style—★★☆☆☆ (2.5 Stars)
Broken Wish is told in third person, past tense from primarily Elva's point of view, but also features Agnes', Mathilda's, and Cay's points of views at various points in the book.

Honestly, Dao's writing style is disappointingly amateurish for an author who's written four or more books now. It's awkward, it's clunky, it's just getting the job done. It's like watching someone cutting soft, fresh bread with a butter knife. Or a surgeon using a hammer instead of a scalpel. A bit embarrassing, since free programs (example: ProWritingAid) can pinpoint most of the issues—like redundant and filler words—and help fix them. 2020 might be a mess, but your prose doesn't have to be!

However, it's unfair to categorize it as all bad. Dao is still a solid storyteller and focuses on the right elements in her scenes and always keeps things moving forward. Additionally, she does a lovely job with sensory details and recurring thematic elements.

Themes and Representation—★★★★☆
Broken Wish centers on the power of kindness, openness and understanding vs stigma, lies, and the push for conformity through fear of rejection. Dao handles the war of these elements superbly, and with a tidy execution. I've brought up the other elements a few times, so I find it important to touch on the battle of openness vs lying here, mainly how nothing good happens when a character intentionally lies to another, even with good intent. Agnes takes Mathilda's cure for her infertility and promises to remain her friend, knowing she intends to break that promise. Elva lies to her parents, telling them Mathilda can take away her powers. Likewise, Mathilda can't find a true friend until she tells the truth about some of the nasty little things she's done to protect herself in the past.

Given the time period and setting, there isn't much room for a dearth of representation, but Dao deals with the core parts—like the ostracism of anyone different, particularly unusual women—quite well, and does include lesbian supporting characters in Mathilda's past and Asian characters in the background. There's also Cay, Elva's younger brother, who's interested in hobbies which weren't traditionally masculine, such as embroidery.

Overall—★★★★☆ (3.5 Stars)

Recommended For...
Fans of dark fairytale-style stories; mentor-mentee dynamics; steadfastly kind and good main characters.

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Profile Image for Julie - One Book More.
1,047 reviews183 followers
October 3, 2020
The first book in the Mirror series, Broken Wish is a dark YA fairy tale about friendship, broken promises, and the importance of acceptance. Agnes and her husband have just moved to a small village in Germany where Agnes befriends Mathilda. Mathilda, a witch who is shunned by society, offers to make Agnes a potion to help her get pregnant in exchange for Agnes’ friendship. Agnes, desperate to have a child, promises but breaks this promise once she receives the potion since she and her husband begin to fear that they too will be ostracized from society. As retribution for the broken promise, Agnes’ child is cursed with powers of her own.

Elva has a magical gift. She can see the future when she looks at reflective surfaces like mirrors and water. Of course, Elva has had to hide her power from everyone because they fear what they don’t understand. When Elva has a terrible vision, she seeks guidance from Mathilda to help control her power and use it for good. Mathilda agrees to train her, and a friendship develops, though Mathilda continually warns Elva not to abuse her power. Will Elva heed her warnings, and will this new friendship heal old wounds?

Julie C. Dao is a wonderful storyteller, and I loved her writing style. The rich language and imagery quickly immersed me into this dark fairy tale. The characters are also really interesting. I loved Elva’s eagerness, optimism, and kindness, and Agnes’ conflicted feelings about friendship and fitting in. Mathilda, however, was my favorite. At times, she is strong, independent, and sure, while in other cases she is lonely, needy, and harsh. She has suffered injustices at the hands of intolerant people but is more wounded by the rejection of her friend.

I enjoyed the friendships throughout the story. Agnes and Mathilda had such a lovely friendship at first, and they seemed like they would have a long-lasting connection. They did, just not in the way one would expect. Their fractured relationship leads to an even more interesting friendship between Mathilda and Agnes’ daughter Elva. The author deftly examines relationships and how the bonds of friendship and family can strengthen or fall apart.

Another aspect of the story that I liked was that it focused more on friendships than romantic relationships. That’s not to say that romantic relationships are excluded from the story, but that they are not explored as dynamically or positively as the friendships. Strong suggestions about examining people’s true intentions and being loyal to the people you care about regardless of what other’s think are also really powerful.

I also liked the Grimm Brothers’ allusions woven through the story. Magic mirrors, family curses, glass coffins, and other nods to the classic fairy tales and authors are fabulous. They add a sense of familiarity to a unique and interesting story.

An interesting tale about accepting oneself and others, prioritizing friendship and loyalty over popularity and fitting in, and embracing the power of friendship, this is a YA tale with great messages! Thanks so much to Netgalley and Disney-Hyperion for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Jenn.
1,764 reviews303 followers
January 24, 2022
Well this book was just impressed the hell out of me. I honestly wasn't sure what I was getting into when I started this as I had never heard of the book or author before, but once I started, I didn't want to put it down.

When the book first starts we meet Agnes, a lonely housewife desperate to have children. When she strikes up a friendship with her neighbor, the town outcast, her husband is furious and demands she stop talking to her for fear the other residents of their small town will notice. Torn between her new found friend and her husband, Agnes chooses her husband and sets in motion a curse that will haunt their family for generations.

Flash forward 16 years and we meet Agnes' daughter Elva who has been keeping a secret from everyone - she can see the future in reflections. Thinking this is part of the curse on her family, Elva strikes out to find Mathilda, her mother's old friend. But what she finds ends up being a true friendship. But alas, nothing good can come of this.

This book had so many ups and downs that it was like a rollercoaster - and it never seemed to go in the direction that I thought it would, which honestly was super refreshing. I adored Elva. Her relationship with her younger brother was so sweet and I just wanted to protect them both at all costs. Then there was her relationship with the "witch". To me, at the core, this book was about acceptance - of yourself and others. I felt for Mathilda. She wanted so badly to have someone who cared but every time she opened up she was shunned. Her life was so lonely and that loneliness just jumped off of the page. I rooted for her and Elva to succeed.

But oh my gosh, I did not predict that ending. Color me shocked.

And what a premise for this series: innovative four-book fairy-tale series following one family over several generations, and the curse that plagues it. Sign me up!
Profile Image for Eileen.
2,042 reviews89 followers
October 15, 2020
I really enjoyed this dark, fractured fairy tale that was a nod to the Brothers Grimm. The story takes place in a small village (Hanau) in Germany at the edge of the North Woods in 1699, which was during the time that the Brothers Grimm were collecting their fairytales. Folks readily believed in magic and the supernatural but considered it the work of evil. There is a lot of relevance to modern-day issues of racism, prejudice, and how you treat others, but what I loved about this book was the atmosphere and creation of this fictional village that felt very realistic. Although there is magic in this book, it feels believable as the mix between magic and reality becomes somewhat obscured. I ended up enjoying this story very much and can recommend it for teens and adults alike.

Special thanks to the author and publisher, and also to NetGalley for this advance review copy in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Juli.
1,899 reviews490 followers
October 11, 2020
Magic. Evil. Magic Mirrors. Witches. This book has all the perfect ingredients for a lovely, dark fairy tale! I loved the story!

I'm not going to say much about the plot -- no spoilers. This book is a tale best enjoyed with no prior knowledge of events. I accidentally read a spoiler in a review before reading.....and I would have enjoyed it much more without knowing anything beforehand.

The story is fast paced and entertaining. The characters are wonderful. The book kept my attention from start to finish. I couldn't stop reading! And, the cover art is amazing!

This is the first book by Julie C. Dao that I've read. I am DEFINITELY reading more!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Disney/Hyperion. All opinions expressed are entirely my own**
Profile Image for Hot Mess Sommelière ~ Caro.
1,149 reviews120 followers
May 6, 2021
Names that aren't German:


Things that weren't a big deal in Germany:

Being born a bastard (unless you're a noble)
Many bastards won court cases against their fathers, both for recognition and for money/inheritance
Everyone had a million bastards and they were often recognized and no one cared (except for nobles: bastards couldn't get title)

Witches in Germany:

Hunts ended in the 1780s. No one was hunting witches well into the 1800s. That's ludicrous.
Also, Hanau wasn't a provincial, villagey, "dumb" place like the author makes it seem. One of the first Worker's Parties in the world was founded there in 1867, only two years after the events in the book. Hanau had a huge amount of educated citizens, and the last public execution there happened in 1861, because they were so modern and civilized. The idea that these politically sound people had nothing better to do, in 1865, than to spy on new neighbors and hound after a supposed witch is insulting.

Old Hanau:

I wish Dao would decide whether the place was a "village" or a "town".
You can't have it both ways.

Buying a cottage in the middle of nowhere as a non-local:

Yeah, that's not happening. Some places in provincial Germany sell houses to locals only until today. It's 2021 and some people will put their house up in the internet and write: only sold to locals.

The idea that a bastard who wasn't rich came from Mannheim to Hanau and just bought a cottage is WILD. That would never have happened, no matter how many witches lived near that fantasy cottage or how haunted that place was. I know, because my family owns a little place in the province and getting a spot in that particular village? You have better chances winning a bare-handed fight against a pack of hungry lions. My mother gets at least two letters every year from desperate people that want to buy the places. The answer will always be no.

So in summary, this was a waste of time. The author didn't even bother with most superficial of researches. She knows nothing about Germany and has never set one foot into Germany. Germans are known to be pedantic and I am certainly that. But this offering didn't even serve the bare minimum. Don't use a country you know nothing about as an unusual setting to dress up your boring witch story.
162 reviews
July 3, 2020
I find myself slowly getting sick of stories that don't seem to have any overarching effects on anyone but themselves and their family. This book is, in one word, boring. Not a lot happens, and even though it's only 320 pages, it feels too long. None of the characters seem to have a reasonable motivation for what they do to themselves and to other people. I couldn't finish it, so the rest of my criticism may be wrapped up, but here's what really annoyed me. Why doesn't Elva tell her parents when she gets blackmailed? Her family is super affluent, and the person who blackmails her is a farm boy. Who would the townspeople side with? We all know the answer. What does Elva want in life? She seems to just be floating around, doing whatever suits her fancy, and not really having any motivation to do anything. There was absolutely no foreshadowing to the betrayal she goes through, and there was not enough build up for me to really care when it happened. The biggest issue I had though, is WHY DIDN'T MATHILDA JUST LEAVE? Like really, everyone hates you, why not move to a less bigoted town, or how about a city? Why does she stay when she stays alone all day every day with people coming by to threaten to kill her? It makes absolutely no sense. Also, why did Elva's mom just drop Mathilda? She knew there would be a curse and did it anyway. And then anytime anything bad happens, she rues the day, as if she didn't totally bring it upon herself. And did she try to go make amends? Of course not! It made no sense. If they became friends again, the promise may have held up, but her mom, like the rest of the characters, doesn't seem to care about anything but vanity and how people will view them, even over the safety of her children. Overall, this was a serious disapointment.
Profile Image for Alex Nonymous.
Author 23 books422 followers
May 14, 2020
Thanks to Disney Publishing Worldwide for providing a digital ARC of The Mirror Broken Wish in exchange for an honest review.

I am obsessed with Grimm Fairytales. Always have been, always will be. The Mirror: Broken Wish does an excellent job translating the magic and morals of Grimm stories into a narrative perfect for teen and tween readers. The whole idea of Disney recruiting a different YA writer to write each book in this quartet had me really interested and this book did not disapoint.

The main thing that bothered me was Elva's supposed love of art that was brought up a once or twice at the beginning of the story and then not returned to. Honestly, due to the style of the book I don't think the character even necessitates a discussed 'outside of plot convenience' hobby. She feels real in the way most fairy tale characters do and you can get invested in Cinderella without hearing about her love of sculpting.
Profile Image for Lidia.
48 reviews17 followers
December 6, 2020
This is a stupid book where the main character dies in the end. Don't waste your time!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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