I picked up Doppelganger (Warrior) because Marie Brennan is a graduate student at Indiana University where I also went to grad school, so I felt a connection there. (How she’s managing to write novels while in grad school, I’ll never know!) Overall, Doppelganger is a good debut.
At first the story follows the separate lives of Mirage, a kick-butt warrior who has recently graduated from warrior school and makes her living by being commissioned for various dangerous tasks, and Miryo, a witch who has been in school and has just failed her “final exam” because of the existence of Mirage, the doppelganger. Every witch has a doppelganger who is supposed to be killed while they are babies so that the magic power can be controlled by the witch. Because Mirage was not killed, Miryo must hunt her down and kill her. Meanwhile, Mirage and her friend Eclipse (he’s also a warrior), have just taken on a murder investigation that ends up uncovering the plot of some rogue witches to let the doppelgangers live. Eventually, Mirage’s and Miryo’s paths cross as each woman sets out to meet her own goals which end up colliding with the other’s.
Doppelganger was well-written and Marie Brennan has a good ear for dialogue. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of both Mirage and Miryo in their respective school programs. It was obvious to me that Brennan is using her own grad school experience because I’ve been through the exact same thing. The way she talked about Mirage and Eclipse, as year mates, being like brother and sister was right on; I likewise had a male year mate who was like a brother to me during that ordeal. I could totally relate to that, and to the other aspects of school (advisors, qualifying exams, studying) that she described.
The story was interesting, but I had some issues. First of all, it annoyed me when characters didn’t ask some obvious questions of their advisors or the people they worked for. As one example, why didn’t Miryo ask her advisors why she had to kill the doppelganger herself? She had no travel or fighting experience and the witches had the resources to hire others to do this sort of job. At first I thought this was a plot hole and was surprised at what seemed like a graduate student’s lack of logic. But, later this question was answered logically and reasonably, but I still wondered why Miryo didn’t think to ask it at the beginning.
Another issue I had is a spoiler. Highlight the following paragraph if you want to read it: The issues between Mirage and Miryo were too quickly overcome. I would have liked to have seen them hunt each other for a while (or at least distrust each other more), but nearly as soon as they met they decided to work things out. That was a bit anti-climatic. And though I did like the ending, it all seemed a bit too easy. [END SPOILER]
One other thing that I felt needed improvement was the description of the major characters. I had been assuming, based on the cover of the book, that Mirage had long hair, but I was surprised to find out half way through that she had “cropped” hair.
Also, Eclipse was never well-described which disappointed me because, as the only “good” male character in the novel, I would have liked to have been able to visualize him. The villains (Ice, the bad witches, Wraith) could have been deeper and more impressive characters with a bit more description of their looks and mannerisms.
Despite these issues, I think Marie Brennan writes well (which is more than half the battle won) and therefore, this is a good debut from a promising new author.