Novella Review: A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: Book 2 of Fractured Fables
Publisher: Tordotcom (June 14, 2022)
Length: 144 pages
Long story short, I didn’t think A Mirror Mended was quite as good as its predecessor A Spindle Splintered, but if you enjoyed the adventure of Zinnia Gray in the first book, chances are you’ll find a lot to like in this follow-up as well.
The story catches up with our protagonist five years following the events of A Spindle Splintered, and in the interim she has been to pretty much every version of the Sleeping Beauty there is, “fixing” each tale by rescuing the titular princess. She does this by carrying around a magical spindle, which transports her to the different worlds every time she pricks her finger. Right before her fiftieth mission, just as Zinnia is beginning to think she can’t possibly keep this up anymore, she glances into a mirror and is shocked to see a stranger’s face staring back at her.
And no, that isn’t supposed to be some cheesy metaphor. The face staring back at Zinnia is a woman she has never seen before, but she’s gorgeous and is begging her for help, so Zinnia figures it’s another princess needing to be saved. After she jumps through the mirror and is transported into the story, however, the beautiful woman reveals herself to be the Evil Queen of the Snow White fairy tale, throwing Zinnia for a loop. Still, even villains need saving sometimes, and the Queen is desperate for her own better ending, hoping Zinnia could be the one to give it to her.
First, the good: Much like A Spindle Splintered, A Mirror Mended definitely has the humor going for it. The tone is even snarkier, if you can believe it, and there plenty more jokes and jabs aimed at the absurdities of fairy tales, which is good news if a satirical angle is your thing. The focus also shifts to Snow White, and I loved Alix E. Harrow’s take on it. Turning the classics on their head is what the author is good at, so you certainly wouldn’t be disappointed if you enjoy unique and original retellings.
And now for the not so good. The aforementioned snark could be a double-edged sword, as occasionally Zinnia’s quippy commentary would land at the most inopportune times to yank me out of the moment. Also, while I understand these Fractured Fables novellas are meant to light reads, I’d nevertheless expect a certain level of tension from the main conflict and the characters’ predicaments. Unfortunately, the protagonist’s constant fawning over the Evil Queen’s beauty was a distraction that made it difficult to take any threat seriously, and like, if her attentions were clearly not on the dangers at hand, then why should mine be?
The plot was also on the weaker side. There didn’t seem to be much point to this installment other than to strengthen Zinnia’s relationships with her friends Charm and Prim, putting the trio through some rather contrived tribulations while the rest of the story felt like filler material used to pad out the book. Then there was the secondary goal of pushing a romance between Zinnia and the Evil Queen which clearly took precedent over establishing a convincing plot, since solutions to the characters’ problems would seemingly materialize out of the blue, or pieces of the puzzle would fall into the place without much explanation or reason.
Still, your mileage may vary. As I said, these novellas are probably meant to be light, fluffy fun reads, so it’s all about expectations. If you’re a fan of the first book or the author though, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. I will look forward to (hopefully) more from Fractured Fables.