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Friday, December 19, 2008

Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Maguire
Reason for Reading: IRL Bookclub
Rating: 3.5/5

In Mirror, Mirror, Gregory Maguire transports the story of Snow White to 1500s Italy. Spanish ex-patriot Vicente de Nevada and his daughter Bianca ( Bianca=white, de Nevada=snowy mountain) live a quiet life in a rural manor in Tuscany. Their life is turned upside down when the (in)famous Borgias visit. Intoxicated on their own glory, Cesare Borgia sends de Nevada off on an almost certainly hopeless search for an ancient biblical relic that may or may not exist.

This leaves Bianca in the care of the treacherous Lucrezia Borgia, without which, this novel would have been dreadfully dull. To recap your history lessons, Cesare and Lucrezia were children of Pope Alexander VI, and rumors still persist today of their skill with poisons, their ruthless political ambitions, adultery, and incest.

Bianca is sent away into the woods to be killed, but as in the story, she is rescued of sorts, by dwarves. In this case, they begin as creatures made of stone, hardly sentient, but something about the human child they have rescued awakens them into a more human-like existance.

Bianca can hardly be called a main character in this book, as she is asleep or dying half of the time, but Lucrezia was a well-developed and entertaining character. Through her flashbacks, we gain insight into what the childhood of an incestuous daughter of the pope might have been like, her motivations, her evolution from the most powerful courtier in Italy to just another player when the political winds shifted. I literally got chills at the ultimate ending that Maguire plotted for Lucrezia.

When I finished this book, I felt that it did not add up to much, but I whizzed right through the short chapters and enjoyed the ride so much I didn't really mind. Maguire shifts the perspective from the dwarves to Lucrezia and back to a narrator without much in the way of transition, but I didn't find it hard to follow. Wicked, arguably Maguire's best-known book left me cold, but I found this one light, enjoyable, and worth reading. Those who enjoy historical fiction and fairy-tale retellings will really enjoy this book.

Other Reviews:
Mostly Fiction, Review of Books


Lezlie said...

I liked this when I read it, but it was really, really odd. I'm sure I was supposed to get more out of the stones/dwarves thing, but it went over my head. :-)


Natasha @ Maw Books said...

I currently have this book in a box under my bed (have no officially run out of bookshelves). I can't wait to get to it.

Marg said...

I read this in my pre blogging days and I really struggled with it. I loved the idea of the book more than I liked the execution of the story itself!

Nymeth said...

I really look forward to reading this. I actually loved Wicked, and since then I've been meaning to read all of Maguire's fairy tale retellings. But for some reason I've yet to pick up another one.

Eva said...

I'm w/ Marg on this one-I read it about three years ago, and I remember wanting to like it a lot more than I did. I'm one of those that did really like Wicked, but have you tried The Ugly Stepsister? It's not at all weird like Wicked...much more straightforward and I really enjoyed it.

Lezlie said...

I totally, totally agree with Eva. If you haven't read Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, you really should. It's my favorite of all of his that I've read so far.


Literary Feline said...

I've been wanting to read something else by McGuire (I read Wicked), but haven't managed to do it yet--much less know where to start. I'm not too keen on reading the sequel to Wicked, I admit, and so was considering this one or Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister.

samantha.1020 said...

I have Wicked on my TBR shelf but I haven't gotten to it yet. I've heard so many things about this author and I need to pick up one of his books :)