Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Steampunk, Time Travel
by: Kristen Britain
Series: Green Rider
I’ve been following Karigan G’ladheon’s adventures since Green Rider was published in 2000. Since then, my biggest issues with the series have been a) the lengthy wait between books (5 books in 14 years!) and b) the fact that I’m more convinced with every passing book that Karigan will never get a happy ending. After the cliffhanger Britain left us with at the end ofBlackveil, I had no idea what to expect from Mirror Sight, but I wanted answers enough to make this one of my top priority titles of the year. For those of you who are still waiting on your copies and mind spoilers, you might not want to read any further. Suffice to say that I’m still ‘hungover’ from this book and really enjoyed it. However, I have no idea how to go about reviewing it without massive spoilers. You are warned!
To start, I’m betting that longtime fans of the series are a little confused by the genre tags I put on this. High and Epic Fantasy are no brainers, and Time Travel is not unusual for the series. But Steampunk? Um… what? Massive shift in character? In a word: yes. Mirror Sight is at once a much needed expansion of Karigan’s world and character, a welcome change of pace from the tensions of the previous two novels, but also a complete shift in character for the book itself. I will admit, this was somewhat off-putting to me at first. I reread book four, Blackveil, right before jumping intoMirror Sight and I didn’t appreciate that massive shift at first. But it grew on me, and after a while I didn’t want it to end. (Another fair warning; I’m still hungover from this book, so my review is going to meander and have some rants.)
You’ll notice that this book review doesn’t have something you always see on The Speculative Post: a publisher blurb. In fact, the one I used for our May Book Releases Listwas massively chopped down from the real publisher’s blurb. That’s because the publisher blurb is nothing more than a summary of books one through four, ending with the cliffhanger fromBlackveil. (Did anyone else other than me want to pitch that book across the room on the last page?) The fact of the matter is that the publisher blurb can’t be anything more than an “our story thus far” because otherwise it would be full of massive spoilers. However, since you’re already expecting massive spoilers, I’ll go ahead and do my best to give you a bit of an idea of what Mirror Sight is about:
Karigan G’ladheon did the only thing she could think of to keep a powerful magical item out of the hands of her enemy, Mornhavon the Black: she shattered the mirror mask. This had the side effect of ripping apart the layers of the universe, sending some of her companions hundreds of miles away. For Karigan and one other companion, it sent them hundreds of miles away and 200 years into the future. The world she knows is gone: Sacoridia has fallen and everyone she knows is long dead. Stranded in a bizarre new world, all she wants to do is go back in time and change the past so that this future never happens. Along the way she’ll have to make new allies, learn more about the when she’s found herself in, and find enough magic to go home.
So, Steampunk. Karigan moving forward 200 years has landed her in the middle of an industrial revolution, and unfortunately she’s found herself in the not-so-fun bit where machines are highly dangerous and workers are too plentiful for factory owners to be worried about silly things like safety. There’s still a bit of magic here, and Karigan is still safely in Britain’s original world. However, for all the layers of 19th century mindset, 19th century style technology (including the need for technology to be ornately decorated that we’ve lost in the past 100 years), there is no steam.Mirror Sight makes up for that with a fair amount of punk: Karigan is out to change the world, and she rejects large swaths of the world she finds herself in. Feminine modesty, you say? Bah! I’m the property of my husband or nearest male relative? Excuse me?! Moving the book forward in time has also given the reader tantalizing glimpses as to how the battles of Karigan’s original time need to be fought in order to avoid the fall of our beloved Sacoridia. Some of these are things Karigan doesn’t know yet, due to Britain’s frequent point of view shifts away from her protagonist, and some of them are things she has pieces to and needs to finish figuring out. I welcome this change as it’s finally given our heroes some tools to work with, which they’ve been sadly lacking for two books. Now Karigan can truly be a protagonist, instead of being forced to react rather than plan.
Now, my one beef with this whole thing is that all of this worldbuilding and so many of the new characters are only going to be used in this book, because as the past changes, so will the future. Just because Karigan appears in this future doesn’t mean she will appear inall possible futures. In fact, she’ll appear in none of them. So all of this coming to love this new facet of the series? At the end of the book I almost felt like it was for naught, in an almost George R.R. Martin sort of way (I love it so it must die!). Now, I appreciate that Britain is being this thorough and logical in her time travel rules. However, that doesn’t lessen my emotional reaction to having a 784 page book basically be an interlude between books four and the forthcoming sixth (which I won’t expect until 2016 at the earliest, dagnabit). I like the logical rules, but I don’t want them. I’m almost as broken as Karigan at the end, having been traumatized by a book that I also loved to pieces.
I’m still too close to this book to really get a good grasp of it for a review. There are some books that I don’t get as involved in that I can review intelligently right after I finish them. This isn’t one of those. This should tell you at least one thing: whatever issues Britain had with pulling readers in in her first two books, they are gone now. She’s reached the level of storytelling where you’re not begging her to be nicer to her protagonist, you’re begging her to be nicer to you, because this just isn’t fair and not how you want the story to end. I also give her huge props for using the industrial revolution as she did. Fans of Britain know that she’s made a career out of being a National Park Ranger, and it turns out she spent some time interpreting the mills of Lowell, MA. I love the authenticity she brings to this book about what it might have been like to live in such a time and place, and I love the way she makes it come alive. That’s no easy trick! Really, the only ‘complaint’ I have is that I just suffered emotional abuse at the hand of book, and I’m silly enough that I’m going to go back and reread this book about five times before I finally let go of it for a while.