The Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher

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The Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: The first in a new fantasy series from Incarceron's Catherine Fisher. It blends the fey with time slips and future catastrophe in a complicated plot coming to a satisfying denouement. Great stuff and roll on, book two.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: October 2012
Publisher: Hodder
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0340970081

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Jake's father disappeared while working on a secret project with his best friend, the celebrated explorer and recluse Oberon Venn. Jake is sure that Venn is a murderer and sets out to prove it, dragging his teacher, Mr Wharton, into the investigation. But the truth is perhaps even more frightening: David Wilde isn't dead, he's lost in time. Venn and his sidekick Piers are intent on re-entering the past to find him, using a device called the Chronoptika. But it's dangerous and they aren't the only ones hell bent on using the time machine. There's Sarah, who can turn herself invisible, and who's being pursued by a murderous Replicant and his wolf. And there's the scarred man with his acolyte and his strange weapon. And there are the Shee, who keep their own counsel, but have their own ambitions, and who enchant the forest on Venn's estate...

You can always trust in Catherine Fisher. She'll give you something worth reading every single time. And The Obsidian Mirror is well worth reading. It's a genre buster, with elements of time slip historical fiction, a modern faerie tale, and the very current dystopian speculative stuff. The plot, therefore, is tremendously complicated, with all sorts of strands underneath the main one about what has happened to Jake's father, and Fisher keeps their significance very much to herself for long stretches. She drops tantalising hints but not much more. But it all hangs together brilliantly as the characters compete to achieve their own ends, perhaps at the expense of everyone else's. And it's exciting! I love the complicated worlds and scenarios that Fisher creates, just as she did in the fabulous Incarceron.

And she's not afraid to give her central characters feet of clay. In The Obsidian Mirror, it's quite difficult to like any of the protagonists, except perhaps for the hapless but well-meaning Wharton and the presumably-a-genie Piers. Jake is rude and breathtakingly selfish and there's only so much sympathy you can extend - even to a boy who has lost his father. Sarah lies and lies and lies - she has good reasons, but even when those reasons cease to hold, she still doesn't tell the whole truth. Venn is arrogant and cruel, willing to sacrifice an entire world, if he must, to get what he wants. And the Shee are as cruel and cold as the faeries in Cold Tom by Sally Prue. These guys need to learn to work together, Fisher is telling us. But will they? She's a clever author, though, because even while her characters are annoying the bejaysus out of you, you're rooting for them with everything you've got.

This is a great set-up for what promises to be a fantastic fantasy series.

My favourite time slip series begins with Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer, blending the modern day with a vivid eighteenth century. And my favourite series featuring the cold, harsh feykind begins with the superb Firebrand by Gillian Philip.

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Buy The Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher at


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