Obsidian Mirror

by Catherine Fisher
First sentence: “The boy put on the mask outside the door.”
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Content: Nothing objectionable, but it’s slow to start and is a  bit confusing. Not for the reader who gives up easily. It’s in the YA (grades 6-8) section of the bookstore.

This has been on my shelves for a long time. Seriously. I had the ARC, but gave that up, and finally, again, decided that I really needed to read this one. And I was in the mood this past weekend to indulge myself.

I shouldn’t have put it off. (Or maybe I should have: I’ve got the second one waiting to be picked up at the library. Shhhh. I know I said I wasn’t going to. But it’s CATHERINE FISHER.)

There’s three parts to this story. One is Oberon Venn, a very wealthy explorer who has spent the last two years in a depression because he was he cause of the accident that killed his wife, Leah. He will do anything to get her back. Including time travel. He and his trusty slave — there’s more to that than meets the eye — Piers are hidden out at Venn’s estate, trying to do just that: travel through time through the Obsidian Mirror.

The second player in this drama is Jacob, the son of Venn’s best fried. Who is missing and presumed dead. Or at least that’s what Jake thinks. So he’s headed, along with his unsuspecting teacher, Wharton,  to Wintercombe Abbey to force answers from Venn. Little does he know the web he will be tangled in.

The final player is the most complicated one: Sarah is possibly an escapee from an insane asylum. Or perhaps she’s a traveler from the future, a future where the mirror has destroyed the world, in order to destroy the mirror and prevent Venn from bringing his wife back.

There’s so much going on in this one, it’s hard to know where to begin. Yes, it’s slow and incredibly confusing to start with. I kept thinking “HUH?” But, I know Fisher’s work, so I stuck it out, and was richly rewarded. It’s time travel mashed with a mystery mashed with faery stories (yes, the Fey show up, and play a role), and if you give it time, it will begin to play out — it’s the first of a trilogy — in some incredible ways.

I can’t wait to read the next one.

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A Beautiful Blue Death

by Charles Finch
First sentence: “The fateful note came just as Lenox was settling into his armchair after a long, tiresome day in the city.”
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Content: It’s actually quite tame, and not at all difficult to read. It’s in the mystery section at the bookstore, but it’d be good to give to a teen who really likes Sherlock Holmes.

It’s 1865, London, and Charles Lenox is one of those aristocratic men who like dabbling in things. He’s mainly a collector of maps and a bit of an explorer, but his hobby (and possibly passion) is being a detective. And, because it’s that sort of book, he’s much better at it than the bumbling, arrogant, unobservant Exeter, a member of the Scotland Yard.

Sounding familiar? It should. because Charles Lenox is just a much nicer Sherlock Holmes.

The murder in question is that of Prudence Shaw, a former maid of Lenox’s next-door neighbor and BFF, Lady Jane Grey. Scotland Yard (and her current employer) are calling it a suicide, but Lenox knows differently. She’s been poisoned by a rare (and expensive) poison called bella indigo. The question is: who did it, and why. (Well, duh. Isn’t that always the question?)

I thoroughly liked Lenox; as a character, he was charming and intelligent and just a pleasure to be around. I really liked his relationship with Jane, how it wasn’t a romance, but a real honest-to-goodness friendship. What I lost patience with, however, was the mystery. While I didn’t figure it out (I’m not good at those things), I wasn’t surprised at the end (which is probably a good thing). But, by the end, I had lost interest in the whole murder thing. And then it went on for several chapters after the final reveal, chapters I ended up skipping.

It wasn’t a bad mystery, just not one I was super enthused about. Liking Lenox as a Sherlock Holmes knock-off wasn’t enough to make me enthused.