Mira, Mirror: Intriguing and thoughtful

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Mette Ivie Harrison Mira, MirrorMira, Mirror by Mette Ivie Harrison

Everyone knows the story of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” but Mettie Ivie Harrison has something more to say, not just about the Evil Queen, but also her magic mirror. In recent years it has been rather vogue to take a traditional fairytale and put a new spin on it (usually by retelling it through the eyes of the antagonist), but Mira, Mirror not only acts as a sequel to “Snow White,” but also provides a new point-of-view in the form of the Queen’s mirror.

Mira and her foster-sister are the outcasts of the village, sold by their families and raised by an old witch. Companions, rivals and sisters, Mira worships the ground her sister walks upon until the day she is caught up in one of her spells. Her body is turned to wood, her face to glass, and suddenly Mira finds herself an instrument of magic that her sister can use to fulfill her ambitions of wealth, beauty and nobility.

But then one day her sister disappears, and Mira is left hanging in a forgotten ruin in the middle of the woods. Keeping herself alive by siphoning magic from the world around her, she is eventually discovered by a young runaway named Ivana. Where one fairytale ends, another begins, and Mira at long last has hope that she might escape her prison and become human again. Disguising Ivana’s poverty and infiltrating her into a wealthy merchant family seems to be the first step in acquiring the money and power she’ll need to expose herself to more magic, but Mira finds herself worried that she’s becoming too much like her sister.

How manipulative and deceitful is she allowed to be in order to regain what she’s lost? Is she justified in her lies and trickery if it means returning to her human form? As a mirror, she witnesses the loves and losses of the people around her and all the opposing faces of love: filial devotion, sisterly affection, love, lust, desire, passion, selfishness, envy, seduction and temptation, all of which render her more and more confused as she grapples with her own moral understanding of the world. Grappling with her knowledge of right and wrong, Mira’s story eventually leads her to revelations about the true nature of magic and love.

Mettie Ivie Harrison has written a fascinating take on the old fairytale, in which Snow White is never mentioned by name and the seven dwarfs only in passing. Instead, she concentrates on the upbringing of the Evil Queen (whose name is eventually revealed at the conclusion) and her relationship to the little sister who eventually becomes her magic mirror. Told in first-person narrative by Mira, her account spans over a hundred years: from the girls’ upbringing in the forest to her new life among a merchant’s family. The chronology flits back and forth between past and present, shedding new light on the characters as it goes, all the way up to its poignant conclusion.

The language is beautiful and rich, and seeped in a fairytale quality that speaks of dark forests and ancient manor houses, and since there’s no detail given on the time period or setting, it retains its folklorish ambiguity as to when and where everything is taking place. Harrison also provides interesting origins for the Queen’s motivation, the poisoned apple tree, and (of course) the mirror and its purpose, and an interesting dynamic evolves between two sets of sisters: Mira and the Queen, providing comparison with Ivana and Talia, the merchant’s daughter (though it is difficult to keep track of who’s who when the former girls switch identities).

Altogether, Mira, Mirror is an intriguing and thoughtful look into an aspect of the fairytale that is seldom explored.

Mira, Mirror — (2004) Young adult. Publisher: Two sisters. One a witch and a queen. The other transformed by her sister’s touch into a mirror — a mirror with voice and memory and magic, but no power to transform herself back to the girl she once was. And then, mysteriously, the queen disappears and another girl finds the mirror. This girl has troubles of her own, but she is also a means to escape and soon the girl and themirror are on their way to find the magic that will bring both pain and hope to both of them. Mette Harrison’s mesmerizing voice spins a breathtaking tale of love, lies, and redemption.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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