Most people would be happy to learn that they could fly, but Tory, awoken from sleep by her mother to find out that she’d been flying near the ceiling, was appalled. She just wanted to be Lady Victoria Mansfield, aged sixteen and about to be presented to society, not a mage (witch) who’d end up been treated like a social pariah. Flying wasn’t even of much use to her, except for retrieving books from the top shelf of her father’s library, but she must have inherited her talents from her great grandmother Viktoria Ivanova. In 1803 England, mages were more acceptable in the lower classes since their abilities were practical, but the aristocracy abhored them.
Like many young girls, Tory liked one particular young man, Edmund, a university student at Cambridge, and thought Edmund was attracted to her too, but what would he think of her being a mage? And when her brother Geoffrey’s child Jamie has fallen down the side of a cliff and is in danger of dying, should Tory expose herself as a witch and fly down to save him? When Lord Fairmont, Tory’s father, decides that she should be sent away in exile to Lackland Abbey where she can be “cured,” Tory fears that her life as she knows it will be over.
Because of M.J. Putney’s masterful writing, Dark Mirror is extremely believeable not only in its imagery but also in its plot development. Tory’s range of emotions as a young girl caught alone in a difficult situation gives us immediate identification. Her time with headmistress Mrs. Grice and later teacher Miss Wheaton are at first terrifying as “….every student in this school was here against her will. All were trapped and frantically trying to find a way out.” Meeting an older student, Elspeth, who tells her “Marriage is not the only possible path for a woman” and who harbors great powers herself introduces Tory to another world of thinking of which she knows little. “No one ever leaves the same as when they came,” Elspeth says.
Searching for secret tunnels under the Abbey, wanting to help to defend defend Britain from French invasion, learning about mages who control the weather, time travel and being taught about magic in the Labyrinth are some of the wondrous events in which Tory engages. But will all of this take her too far away from her home and her background, or will it teach her to be her own person? Finally she learns that “The Lackland students might be outcasts from society, but together they were a community.”
Dark Mirror will appeal to anyone who has ever felt different or young and alive and ready to take risks to help their fellow men. Prematurely torn from her family and its sense of high society, Tory gains the gift of being able to choose her own path and her own love, as all of us, in the end, really want to do. What began as a mishap of fate ends as self-fulfillment for Tory as she is able to save the life of someone dear to her while aiding her country and becoming a part of history. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t be glad to take part in this reading adventure!
Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney, published on March 1, 2011 by St. Martin’s Griffin, 320 pages.
Reviewed by Christina Zawadiwsky
Christina Zawadiwsky is Ukrainian-American, born in New York City, has a degree in Fine Arts, and is a poet, artist, journalist and TV producer. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Award, two Wisconsin Arts Boards Awards, a Co-Ordinating Council of Literary Magazines Writers Award, and an Art Futures Award, among other honors. She was the originator and producer of Where
The Waters Meet, a local TV series created to facilitate the voices of artists of all genres in the media, for which she won two national and twenty local awards, including a Commitment to Community Television Award. She is also a contributing editor to the annual Pushcart Prize Anthology, the recipient of an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association, and has published four books of poetry. She currently reviews movies for , music for , and books for .