Ossus Library Index Fantasy Index

MIRROR SIGHT

A novel by Kristen Britain (2015, DAW Fantasy)
Green Rider, book 5

After being transported to the future, where the world is under the dominion of an evil emperor, Karigan tries to find a way to get home and change events, while falling in love.

 

 

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Read September 27th to October 24th, 2016 on my ipad  
    I had trouble getting into the setting of this novel, which might have biased me against the story. It felt to me unpolished, for some reason. I nearly lost it at the end, when Karigan’s memories started fading, but at least that was restored, but for a weak reason, to me.

Spoiler review:

It looks to me like a new chapter is beginning in the Green Rider saga, and this book is here to show us the stakes if the future is not changed. At the end of Blackveil, Karigan was stuck in a box after breaking the mirror mask of the gods. It turns out that she was transported into the future by more than a century, and the whole world has changed. Saccoridia has been conquered, the castle and most of the lands destroyed, and technology is on the rise. It’s not powered by battery or gas, and often not even water, steam or coal, but by whatever remains of etherea, the magical substance that permits supernatural occurrences. The elitians live on it, as they are immortal, and it allows the Green Riders to use their special gifts. Presumably, it’s what the witch Yodanthe also used in her dealings with Amberhill after he was shipwrecked.

I wondered how long we would spend in Mill City of this world. It turns out that the entire book, save a couple of short chapters, were spent in the future timeline, between Mill City and the capital of Gossham. It’s unfortunate that the book didn’t divide itself into the future and Karigan’s post-adventure story, because the part in the future went on for way, way too long, especially with nothing happening. Karigan was trapped, and only a couple of chapters allowed her to grow. The rest was about her mourning her lost ability, her lost freedom, and a repeated emphasis on how the world has changed. It all could have been compressed into half the length.

While many people might be disappointed to have Karigan taken out of Saccoridia, I think it was a neat choice, at least for the first quarter and last quarter of the book. I wish she hadn’t been sidelined for so long, first by her injury and the morphia, then again by the morphia overdose. The whole book, she does almost nothing. The time when she snuck out to follow Captain Mapstone’s instructions seemed like the only time she was herself.

I’m not sure how the author would have done it, but I’d like to know how the values of this empire came into being. Yes, Mornhavon believed in using slaves and having a class system, but he didn’t seem to have anything against women until he faced Karigan. The origins might still come up in future books, though, as Webster Silk (Dr. Silk’s father) said he had been alive for more than a hundred years. We might see his parents or grandparents in the original time. Even though Amberhill/Mornhavon/Sea King created the empire, it looks like Silk was the one who shaped it. It might show his values.

Most of the story takes place inside the home of Professor Josston, as Karigan is a woman in a place where women have no rights. She is able to sneak around, first to the Professor’s secret warehouse of treasures from the past -Karigan’s present. And the Professor gives her the Green Rider horse Raven and a male jockey outfit in order to ride him freely, but it’s something that she doesn’t do often enough for my tastes.

The man who owned Raven is one intent on power and eternal life, which can be given by the emperor through the use of the etherea. This is apparently his whole motivation for drilling into the remains of the castle to get to the tombs. He is blind, but can see etherea which allows him to see. So he sees something unique in Karigan, and wants to get to know her. She manages to frustrate him at almost every turn while in Mill city.

The other person of note is Cade, a student of the Professor’s, and a member of the real resistance. I really liked the way the Professor was shown to be the leader of the resistance, but because he is part of the elite class, he has no idea what real resistance is. He continuously urges caution, even as people are being killed and worked to death. He has silent protests that are completely wasted on those who are in power, and completely useless to those being oppressed. It is only after he has been found out, and suddenly has something to lose, that he becomes useful, and that’s only in allowing Cade and Karigan to escape as he takes the easy way out -suicide (though that includes blowing himself and a huge number of inspectors up).

The real resistance is represented by Cade, who is young, poor and wants to fight the oppression. He thinks he can become a Weapon, but Karigan quickly disabuses him of that notion by showing him how to really fight. Of course, they fall in love, but the strictures of this society mean that they can’t get together, at least yet.

Things start to pick up a little (and only for a little while) when Karigan gets a note from the past, delivered by a cat in her window. It’s unfortunate, but still cool, that the Eletians are used as diviners of the future. It’s convenient that their abilities are so sporadic, otherwise they might have figured out the results of the mission to Blackveil. Maybe the gods gave them the vision, because of course, they fear for their safety. The people of Mill City don’t know anything about the gods of her time. Karigan goes to the secret door to the tombs under the castle (followed by Cade), where she meets present day Weapons and caretakers of the tombs. They’ve survived in secret for more than a century. Karigan tells them about the Dragonfly device that the Professor thought the ancient people used to defeat the Sea Kings of old, so they will start searching for it. By the end of the book, when Silk’s drill finally penetrates into the castle, the Caretaker finds the device, and starts to laugh, just before she is killed. I guess that’s going to be a big surprise in a future book, but here it feels like a cliché.

The rest of the book takes place on the road to or in Gossham, the capital city of the Empire. It is there, following the trail of the Eletian who was moved with Karigan through time, as well as the heir to Saccoridia’s throne (a spoiled girl who betrayed the Professor and exposed his movement), that Karigan and Cade finally become lovers. There is not actually much to tell about their journey, as there wasn’t much to tell about Mill City. They travel, try to avoid Inquisitors and their mechanical pets, and make love when they are in private. Luke, their driver, has fun with that, as they are both dressed as men.

Although the descriptions of Gossham are detailed and interesting, the story there is less so. Fortunately, it has more of a story than Mill City, and it’s where the climax of the book takes place. I find the keeping of the witch Yodanthe to be given too much brutalness in assuming that all men in power will violate a woman when it suits their purpose. It’s a lot like Game of Thrones, where it doesn’t need to be. It only serves to emphasize how evil this empire is, when it didn’t have to be done that way. Of course, when she’s set free, her revenge is swift and terrible. Speaking of which, given what he knows of Yodanthe, I don’t think Silk or anybody would actually free her; they’d rather die. But I guess if they know they are going to die because of it, they’ll hope that Karigan would also be killed in the bloodbath to follow. The dragons were a surprise, but it’s disappointing to note that Karigan didn’t see them, or even get an inkling of what the great weapon could be. Hopefully the Dragonfly device can provide some hints.

The Eletian wasn’t as important to the plot as I’d expected. He spends the first half of the book hiding, then is captured by Silk, who can of course see him easily due to the etherea in his very being. When Karigan sees him at the circus ball, Silk knows he is from the past, and transports him to the capital city. He is dying because of the lack of etherea. Karigan regains her ability to fade out in the capital, due to the remnants of the Blackveil etherea there (but why is it there, in the city where she grew up, rather than in the remains of Blackveil?), and manages to rescue him. Thanks to visions from the ghost of one of her Rider friends, she knows that there is a room in the palace where they can try to make their way to the past. While Karigan is out fighting, the Eletian manages to get everything set up, so she can return in time. It wasn’t all that exciting, but a functional ending.

I was gravely disappointed by a few things at the end of the book. The most disappointing was that Karigan didn’t get to remain pregnant. I think that would have made for an amazing development in her character, defying the brooch and Rider custom, not to mention the effect it would have on the King. I was mildly disappointed that the gods didn’t allow Cade to return with her, as it would have given her somebody to lean on now that so many of her friends are dead. I don’t know what’s to come, of course, but it seems to me to be a lost opportunity. I suppose future books will have further opportunities, but I doubt they’ll have as good a setup as this situation could have.

The final thing to note about this book is the mirror sight that Karigan had into the past -her present. I liked the very brief looks into the Wall, where her horse misses her and briefly senses her and her best friend continues to struggle after losing her voice, and when Captain Mapstone writes the letters that will ultimately be delivered to Karigan in the future. But the scene where they discover that an unknown legendary race helped defeat the Sea Kings seems a little like reinvention. Is the stained-glass painting the only history of the time that remains? Nobody wrote a scroll telling of how the Sea Kings were defeated by humans, Eletians and the p'ehdrose? Incidentally, Karigan saw stuffed versions of these creatures in the future, curiosities for the masses to ogle.

Perhaps me greatest sense of disappointment was when Karigan’s memories began to fade. Why would the author do such a thing, as it seems completely pointless. Why have the story if the people won’t even be remembered. Thankfully she reverses this decision at the very end, with Yates’s sketchbook retrieved from Blackveil. The whole deception seems like a reason to string the readers along.

Even without those last few points, the book was too long for its own good, and Karigan did almost nothing for most of it. I liked the fact that she found love and experimented with physical intimacy. Maybe she’ll be ready to open up to somebody new in the future.
 
   

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