Book Review: Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney

Dark MirrorDark Mirror
M.J. Putney
St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011
ISBN 978-0-312-62284-8
Trade Paperback


This is such a neat little book.  At a blush, I could say that this endearing 17th century story is about royalty, magic and time travel.  While, indeed, we do get that; I feel that the story is about so much more.  For me, it is about making choices.  Throughout the story, there are reminders that everyone has the free will to make a cognizant decision: choose your own path, or comfortably follow the herd.  Further, we are reminded that this doesn’t have to be a permanent, one-time-only choice.  We can always reconsider.

Magic, to many, is a gift.  It is to be nurtured, a skill that must be consistently developed and refined.  Commoners who are blessed as mages are oft employed by the aristocracy for their specific skills—from small things like ensuring good weather for a special event to healing a royal family member.  As royalty, appearances are more important than we can conceive of in today’s time.  Maintaining public approval is imperative, even if it means watching a loved one die.  Despite the obvious need for magic, royalty shall have none of it flowing through their blue blood.  When a member of a royal family is found to possess magic, the member is sent to Lackland Abbey to be cured.  Why?  Is it because this is the one thing the aristocracy can’t obtain, despite their station & wealth?

Among those that struggle to answer this question, we have our main character, Lady Victoria Mansfield, “Tory”.   She is an outstanding example of what a young girl can be capable of.  I admire her strength, courage and kindness.  Her deliberation prior to making tough choices is impressive. She consistently demonstrates her unique ability to maintain a balance that she can live with, by marching to the beat of her own drummer, without stomping on the sheep.  In doing so, Tory is yanked from the comforts of family and home and rudely deposited in the dismal world that is Lackland Abbey.

Do the outside royal families really know what goes on at Lackland Abbey?  Does everyone want to be “cured”, even though the taint of magic never really disappears, original status is never reinstated?  Doesn’t anyone wish to understand and control magic?  Can’t the magic be used for good?

As Tory’s life changes, her country prepares itself for an attack.  Students’ narcissistic thoughts of returning home are replaced with hopes and desires to protect Britain.  A secret world is revealed.  Many young people would choose to thumb their noses at public perception for the opportunity to protect their home.

Dark Mirror tells their story.  The selflessness and courage displayed by a small group of young outcasts is inspiring.  The bonds created by working so hard together for a common cause show hope that we can all get along, and that very good things happen when we do.  This tells of a truth in history that isn’t contained in current class curriculums.  Because it is peppered with magic, time travel and a bit of romance, it is an entertaining story as well.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2012.