Okay. You’re going to have to stick with this review of Prison Made of Mirrors, which I really do think is a little hidden diamond on the bookshelf—but it might not sound like it at first.
I was kind of eager to read it because I really did like the cover (even though it’s not much more than an obvious stock photo with some runes overlaid with light transparency—but it works because of the sense of story it conjures.) I was a little surprised when it arrived in such a small package; it’s actually a novella . That’s neither here nor there, just something I hadn’t really recognized… that means it’s a faster read: like a long lunch break if you read fast.
What I didn’t like:
The story doesn’t really start until chapter three. I was a little discouraged immediately when the opening paragraph was an obvious info dump to establishing the setting. There were also some grammar errors that should’ve been caught (like an unfinished sentence which started and then a new one with capitalized word began—like the author might’ve accidentally deleted a section during reedit but didn’t have a proofreader to catch the error,) and some inconsistencies with terms that didn’t really get explained. In fact, I almost gave up since Ch2 was still talking about irrelevant people and not the main character. But I’m glad I didn’t give up and the beginning makes more sense when read below (and it gets easier when the 1st two chapters worth of “narrator voice” goes away and the story really begins).
What I liked:
The first moment I really started to like the book was when Queen Aithne’s personality began to come out (not her traits—it’s easy to write about someone, less easy to make them alive)—she suddenly began to feel like Game of Throne’s Cerci, or Vikings’ Aslog. I guess I’d figured the book would be mostly passive and, knowing the Viking content, thought maybe the author was going for a story as if told by a skald at a bonfire. …but Aithne isn’t likeable and so it didn’t hook me yet. Then there was a werewolf. I’m in. Vikings + werewolves basically guarantees I’m going to read it through.
While the main character isn’t a werewolf, I was starting to enjoy the story more and really liked the Dvergar whom Brenna (the MC) met at the mid-point. I don’t know why I didn’t realize it until then, but I recognized that this is a retelling of Snow White set in a Scandinavian/Viking backdrop. The waxing passivity of the first two chapters made sense when I realized the author was writing as if this were a dark Disney movie set in a parallel kingdom to Ragnar Lothbrook—the first two chapters are that little snippet of film thrown out to lay a framework right before the main Title Screen flashes across the screen. I think it would’ve worked better as a prologue, in that sense, but it’s not my book. Maybe I figured it out later than most people… I dunno, but it made the issues I had initially with the book uncomfortable rather than unforgiveable.
Another thing I liked was the Loring, once the stage was set, maintained consistency in the world (outside of those few inconsistencies early on) and things like names and terms or an obviously Nordic origin (even alternate/archaic spellings such as dvergar versus duregar) really gave the story a well-crafted atmosphere; she did not break the setting by trying to force it either (like annunciating accents into the speech—I hate that so much, and she avoided that trap).
It’s worth picking up, especially if you liked the Vikings series or Snow White and the Huntsman movie(s). You can get the book by clicking here!