TITLE: The Dark Mirror (The Bridei Chronicles #1)
AUTHOR: Juliet Marillier
PUBLICATION: 2004 by Tor
Bridei is a young nobleman fostered at the home of Broichan, one of the most powerful druids in the land. His earliest memories are not of hearth and kin but of this dark stranger who while not unkind is mysterious in his ways. The tasks that he sets Bridei appear to have one goal-to make him a vessel for some distant purpose. What that purpose is Bridei cannot fathom but he trusts the man and is content to learn all he can about the ways of the world.
But something happens that will change Bridei’s world forever…and possibly wreck all of Broichan’s plans. For Bridei finds a child on their doorstep on a bitter MidWinter Eve, a child seemingly abandoned by the fairie folk. It is uncommonly bad luck to have truck with the Fair Folk and all counsel the babe’s death. But Bridei sees an old and precious magic at work here and heedless of the danger fights to save the child. Broichan relents but is wary.
The two grow up together and as Bridei comes to manhood he sees the shy girl Tuala blossom into a beautiful woman. Broichan sees the same process and feels only danger…for Tuala could be a key part in Bridei’s future…or could spell his doom.
WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .
I positively love the Sevenwaters saga, so I have been wanting to read the Bridei books for a long time merely because I adored the author’s other books (even though I didn’t care much for Wolfskin or even bother to finish Foxmask). I discovered this volume on the shelves at a little used bookshop I like to frequent so it seemed a perfect opportunity.
The writing is pretty spot on and it has the feel of a good fantasy about it. I do like Marillier’s prose style and how she crafts her setting and characters. Truly it has a lot of elements that should make it a good fantasy novel. Still I can’t help but feel that despite all this I wanted to like the book more than I actually did. It was one of those times where I just failed to click with a book, which is something of a shame because I like how the author has it set up.
The characters seem diverse enough. I guess we the reader are meant to fall for Bridei, but I’m personally not taking the bait. I’m kind of with the opinion of Ferada that he’s a dull individual. Although I suppose his sheltered upbringing may have something to do with it. And Tuala seems as though a loose thread through most of the narrative where we are not sure if she has a real purpose beyond the expected love interest role. I suppose if I liked her more perhaps? I used to think that Marillier didn’t coddle her characters after what happened to Sorcha in Daughter of the Forest, but alas nothing bad happens to Tuala even though you think it would at times. The wise woman Fola is interesting enough though because I rather liked her at first meeting. And Faolan would probably be my favorite character were I to choose one in this book because he kind of fits the type that I would like in a story. Some of his comments amuse me such as his saying that he didn’t hold a grudge as long as he was being well paid for his services. I guess that it’s usual for me to like the side characters.
This book kind of felt like The Mists of Avalon in some ways… I dunno, perhaps only I would make such connections. Two children raised together as siblings, although in this case it is of the foster variety rather than a blood relation. The boy destined to be a king and the girl an unusual creature training to be a priestess of the goddess, although in this case Tuala is a child of the Shining One. And of course there’s the battle between the old ways and the encroaching influx of the Christian faith. Yes, I am probably odd for taking notice of such far-fetched similarities.
Like I said earlier in this review, I just didn’t click with this book so I cannot recommend it as much as I would like. However, I am sure that there are some readers out there whom might like it better than I did. So if you have an inkling to try it, do not purchase and make use of your local library’s services. I have books two and three in this series sitting on my shelf so I shall peruse further and see if the Bridei Chronicles ever gets better.