Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

The Water Mirror

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The Water Mirror by Kai Meyer

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With Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord, the US was introduced to a world of fantastic juvenile fiction from Germany. Maybe it was to fill the gap that J.K. Rowling was leaving between her Harry Potter books; maybe it was just to make some extra money off of the fans wanting to read more Harry Potter (and being put off by the Charlie Bone series); maybe it was because the fiction was just so good that the publishers felt we needed to read it.Cornelia Funke has been hit-or-miss with me, but Kai Meyer has won me over with the first book of his I've read.

The Water Mirror is a wonderful blend of history, fantasy, and horror, combined with a beautiful narrative and some of the most vivid settings I've read in a while, for adults or children. The story is set in Venice, and surrounds two orphans who have been adopted by a famous maker of mirrors as apprentices. In this Venice, though, the city has been threatened by the Egyptian armies of mummies for over 40 years, the guards patrol the city from the backs of stone lions, and the canals are populated by mermaids with ghastly, tooth-filled smiles. Merle, the cental character, owns a hand mirror whose surface is made of water, but which never spills, and leaves her dry, even after she puts her whole arm through the mirror. What neither she nor Junipa know is that they are key players in an elaborate plot to free Venice from its imprisonment.

This is a fabulous book filled with imagery and emotion, and some of the passages will leave you in awe at the author's craft. Small passages are elevated with some carefully placed words, and the settings are heightened by his ability to create a vivid picture from the smallest number of words possible. In cases like this, where a book has been translated from another language, it's hard to know whether to credit the original author, or the translator, but the end result is wonderful. It reads quickly and easily, and since this is the first in a trilogy, it ends with a cliffhanger of sorts, with only a few issues resolved. In a way, it's frustrating, if only because you're going to want to know what happens next; in another way, it's reassuring, because Meyer has started an addictive story of intrigue and subterfuge which you will eagerly await reading.

Though this is cataloged as a juvenile book, I would hesitate giving it to young readers. Some of the imagery is a bit disturbing, and some of the thematic elements of the story could cause consternation with parents. I can't say what that would be, without giving away a key element of the story, but I will say to parents: Read this before giving it to your kids. I have no doubt they would enjoy it, but it's worth your time to review it beforehand.

For adults, I recommend this without hesitation. It's a wonderful book.

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May 12, 2006 - Posted by | Juvenile Fiction, Reviews

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