The Obsidian Mirror (Chronoptika #1) by Catherine Fisher
Jake’s father disappears while working on mysterious experiments with the obsessive, reclusive Oberon Venn. Jake is convinced Venn has murdered him. But the truth he finds at the snow-bound Wintercombe Abbey is far stranger … The experiments concerned a black mirror, which is a portal to both the past and the future. Venn is not alone in wanting to use its powers. Strangers begin gathering in and around Venn’s estate: Sarah – a runaway, who appears out of nowhere and is clearly not what she says, Maskelyne – who claims the mirror was stolen from him in some past century. There are others, a product of the mirror’s power to twist time. And a tribe of elemental beings surround this isolated estate, fey, cold, untrustworthy, and filled with hate for humans. But of them all, Jake is hell-bent on using the mirror to get to the truth. Whatever the cost, he must learn what really happened to his father.
2 1/2 stars
Thanks to NetGalley and Dial Publishers for this eARC! This title is now available.
I am usually pretty easy to please with world building. As long as I know enough to keep me up to date on the lingo of the story, I’m fine. If the story can whizz by so fast the world building is not necessary, I never require it. But when a book keeps chucking terms and events at me with absolutely no explanation? Then I get annoyed.
I was out of my depth with this book from almost the first moment. There are multiple storylines for multiple characters straight from the gate. The character of Jake is by far my favorite, just because everything he does makes sense and he never uses fancy words. I start to lose it, however, with the introduction of Sarah. She lands in a field from out of nowhere, starts shouting names of people we’ve never met, is suddenly being chased by a wolf that is not a wolf (or is it?) and gets into the home of Jake’s godfather by pretending she’s an escaped crazy patient (or is she?). There’s talk of time travel and replicants, which gives this a distinctly scifi feel, but then we also get introduced to the Shee, which are basically fairies. Confused yet? Because at this point my head was just exploding—and this isn’t even the half of it.
I was never able to get into the groove of this book, because I only ever got half of what was going on. Every attempt I made to get into the flow was instantly thwarted by a new term or concept or event that I didn’t understand the basics of. I will say, though, that Fisher did a masterful job of tying everything together in the end of the book. Things that had been confusing before suddenly made a lot more sense, even as new befuddlements cropped up. Still, if I hadn’t been reading this for review, I probably would never have made it that far into the book. I was so frustrated for so long that I almost stopped reading.
That being said, the characters in this book had very obvious motives for everything that happened, with the exception of the butler who is still a mystery to me. Jake is searching for his lost parents, Sarah wants to rescue her parents, Venn wants to save his wife, Wharton wants to protect Jake, etc. They all have very human reasons for what they do, and I never question their actions, even when they have negative consequences. It’s rare that a cast this large has that as an almost universal quality, and that impressed me.
This book could be a great read for someone with more patience with me, or maybe the ability to read between the lines better than I can. For me, though, I just didn’t have the patience to wait for things to be explained to me until literally the falling action of the book. The concept was an interesting one, but it quickly soured on me when I couldn’t get into the action—which was plentiful—because I still had no idea how anything worked. If I can get an ARC of the next book, then I might read it for the sake of the characters, but it won’t be a must grab for me.