fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy and science fiction book reviewsDark Mirror by M.J. Putney

M.J. Putney, a.k.a. Mary Jo Putney, is a well-known author of romance novels. In Dark Mirror, Putney makes her young adult debut. Dark Mirror is a blend of fantasy and historical romance set in an alternate history in which magic exists and is legal, but is considered gauche, fit only for the lower classes.

In 1803, young Victoria Mansfield learns she has magic and knows she must keep it secret if she is to make a good marriage. The jig is up when, at a crowded fete, she has to use her powers to save her nephew from certain death. Family friends give her the cut direct and her father packs her off to Lackland Abbey, a school where aristocratic young people learn to suppress their magic. She’s in for a surprise, though. Not everyone at Lackland believes in forsaking magic, and soon Tory meets a secret society dedicated to honing their powers in the hopes of using them against Napoleon.

At this point I’m going to put a spoiler in my review. It’s my opinion that you need to read this spoiler before deciding whether to read the book. I did know about this plot element and was able to adjust to it; I think I’d have been utterly disoriented if I hadn’t known. But I’ll let you decide; If you want to see it, highlight the following text: Tory discovers a mirror that zaps her into 1940, where she befriends a family that needs her help — and her friends’ help — during WWII. [end spoiler]. This almost sounds like too much concept for one book, but it mostly works.

Dark Mirror is, overall, a sweet story focused on friendship, finding oneself, and budding romance, set amid two wars. The love story is cute and written at an age-appropriate level. The ending is particularly touching.

There are issues, however. The dialogue is often stilted — partially because so much of it is expository (between the magic lessons and the explanations to Tory about how things work) and partially because it’s just too goody-goody. Haughty Cynthia is a delightful exception. She starts as a “mean girl” and even when she becomes more sympathetic, she’s still snarky, which makes her a scene-stealer. There is also at least one continuity issue: Mrs. Rainford initially talks about scrying as if Tory taught her to do it, but later Mrs. Rainford learned the skill elsewhere and begins to teach it to Tory.

I have mixed feelings about Dark Mirror, but I’d certainly give a second book a chance — especially if it stars Cynthia and Jack as the lead couple.

Dark Mirror — (2011-2012) Young adult. Publisher: 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.

M.J. Putney Dark 1. Dark MirrorM.J. Putney Dark 1. Dark Mirror 2. Dark Passage 3. Dark DestinyM.J. Putney Dark 1. Dark Mirror 2. Dark Passage 3. Dark Destinyfantasy and science fiction book reviews

Click here for more stories by M.J. Putney.


  • Kelly Lasiter

    KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.