Tuesday 27 September 2011

Book Review: The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier

The Dark Mirror
by Juliet Marillier
Book One of the Bridei Chronicles
Publisher: Tor
Genres: Historical fantasy
Available as ebook, paper book and audio
5 stars
Reviewer's purchased copy.


In the mid 6th century the Pictish kingdom in northern Britain is under threat from the Gaels and the Christian faith, which leaves the leaders of the northern realm struggling to maintain their ancient traditions.

All hope rests on the shoulders of young Bridei, a little-known son of the royal line, who is seen as the perfect candidate for future kingship. At his remote forest home of Pitnochie, Broichan, a powerful druid, sets about training the boy in the ways of the ancients and in the all-important preparation to be a leader of men.

But Broichan has not allowed for the Good Folk, inhabitants of the ancient forests of Fortriu and well-known workers of tricky magic. When Bridei discovers a strange baby girl abandoned on Broichan's doorstep in the chill of the winter solstice, he takes her into the house. And the druid has to realise that there is one unpredictable power at work that may be too strong for him to control and could become the death of his dreams.


I first read the Sevenwaters books by Juliet Marillier a few years ago and I have to admit for having a very soft spot for those, for the mythical place of Sevenwaters in the books is based around the area where I grew up in Northern Ireland and I was doubly fascinated because of that.

Not knowning much about Scottish history, I wasn't sure how I was going to like the Bridei Chronicles. I needn't have worried. You don't need to know anything about the history or the places, because Ms. Marillier does a good job of describing each of them without the novel turning into a textbook. The places she describes are almost characters in themselves and it is a wonderful escapist book.

I adored Bridei and how we got to see him grow up from a nervous child in the druid's household until he's a young man around eighteen or nineteen and how his relationship with Tuala evolves from that of a protective older brother to that of sweetheart. The romance seemed to flow naturally an didn't feel as if was shoe-horned in.

The story is told mostly from Bridei's and Tuala's points of views with a few secondary characters having a few scenes to themselves as well. The contrasts and conflicts between the old pagan religon and rituals and the emerging Christian religion was well done.

As with most of Ms. Marillier's books, the settings and some of the people are historical and it is blended with myth and fantasy, giving an otherworldly feel to her books.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the next books in the series.

Reviewed by Annette Gisby, author of The Chosen

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