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Ratings and Book Reviews (2 6 star ratings
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    dark fantasy

    The world of the Mirror Visitor quartet is a sort of steampunk and fantasy blend, and hints of futurism (at least for the background). Here, the world is literally divided into fragments of the Earth floating around in space (by some trick of magic presumably that is messing with the laws of phsyics), each ruled by a family spirit, AKA gods, and each having their own form of governance. The main storyline is about Ophelia, who comes from Anima, Artemis’ Ark, where the latter’s descendants have psychometric powers, and the land is sort of a socialist community, being handed over as a diplomatic tribute in marriage to Pole, ruled in a monarchy by Lord Farouk, a hedonistic man-child god who pretty much leaves the ruling of his Ark to his Treasurer, and her fiance, Thorn. The main struggle of the character is to adjust to this new world, to establish her place in it, to not get used as a pawn in the games between the nobles, while in hiding. I think discussing Ophelia’s character is an important part of how this plot progresses. She is a quiet, reserved woman who doesn’t think much of herself but doesn’t let anyone walk over her; she may come across as passive but I think it is cunning. Her journey through the book is to stand up for herself, to hold on to her sense of self in the face of cruelty, and to realize the power in her strength. Her being skeptical and wary of the Pole from the start, as well as decidedly not trusting Thorn and his aunt, Berenilde even though they are her only allies, is a smart strategy on her part. Opposed to her aunt and chaperone, Rosaline, she quietly observes and gathers information and makes calculated decisions; that doesn’t mean she doesn’t make mistakes or doesn’t act in haste, but she usually looks for the best option under the circumstances. The world of Pole is ruthless, and as she gets into the Citaceleste in disguise as Berenilde’s valet, she sees the nature of the society, which I feel armed her with enough knowledge before the story into the next book. Additionally, and while I don’t know if this has been confirmed as canon, Ophelia’s characterization was very much coded as aro-ace. It could be that the vocabulary of ace-spec wasn’t used, but there are other novels that don’t explicitly say ace (The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is a good example) but still provide plenty of evidence for it. Ophelia says on multiple occasions that she has never felt anything for Thorn, nor would she ever, and if you are expecting a romance, you will be disappointed. (Honestly, the world is too cruel to warp even romantic love, as in the case of Berenilde) Thorn does look like he will be the broody-but-a-hidden-soft-side kind of love interest, but there’s are many ways the book subverts that. The book has some interesting secondary characters, and their relationships to Ophelia enrich the plot and decide her path forward. The magic system in the book isn’t unusual, but it is pretty interesting. I would love to know why Artemis’ ark has only one kind of power, while Farouk’s had at least 5. Add to that, there was another ark called LandmArk that had the power to manipulate space. The amalgamation of the powers into the construction of Citaceleste was clever and showed forethought into the world-building. The plot is tight, and usually doesn’t leave room for much questions or doubts – if there were any in the start, they were usually resolved later on; it is not wholly unpredictable, but hits the sweet spot between keeping you interested by dangling clues but also not making you do all the work. There is still the mystery of the Books which seems like it is going to be a Big Thing later on, so I’m excited for what that might reveal. Overall, a magical but not whimsical introduction to the world of the Arks, and a clever heroine to root for!
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    stalwart young adult in a fickle world

    Hands that read, tattooed eyelids, and palaces decorated with illusion: enter the fantastical world of A Winter’s Promise, the tantalizing first book in a planned series of four by Christelle Dabos. Ophelia, a museum curator on the Anima ark, one of the lands created after God smashed the world to bits, is betrothed to Thorn, Treasurer on the Pole ark. Against her will and desire, she must navigate the conniving, gossipy, cutthroat Pole society without losing all sense of independence. Billed as a young adult novel (the first Europa has published), the book explores the wiles of the adult world. Clumsy but crafty Ophelia, who can read objects with her hands and travel through mirrors, models a path toward maturity and steadfastness amidst people she can barely trust. The novel excels at intricate plot twists and magical inventions that entertain as well as teach. Enlisting characters from all demographics, from servants to immortal family spirits, and everyone in between, the story twists and turns without veering from the focus on Ophelia’s coming of age. Ingenius compass roses, mirrors that transport and hourglasses that offer temporary escape enable a glimpse into all corners of a vast, palatial setting. Cunning dialogue between characters is both deceiving as well as illuminating about Ophelia’s challenges to understand the community she’s up against. At times the plot is confusing, but periodic summaries help. A fantasy novel with real world application, A Winter’s Promise reads like an epic fairy tale.

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