Genre Fantasy Publisher Tor Year Published 2007 Review Posted on 6/23/2013 Reviewer Rating
The Dark Mirror Book One of The Bridei Chronicles, by Juliet Marillier
Reviewed by S. J. Higbee
If you've read this book, why not
Set in the far north of England, in approximately 500AD, this is the
story of the embattled Priteni. Marillier based them on the Picts, who
were wiped out of history by the end of the Dark Ages. Recent
archaeology reveals them to have had a sophisticated society with
developed art and a deep religious belief and interest in the animals
and plants around them.
Marillier, as ever, weaves her knowledge and interest into a compelling
story. Her version of High Fantasy pulled me back into regularly
reading this genre and although there are others who do it equally well,
there is no one in my opinion who does it better.
Marillier normally writes in first person POV, with a female
protagonist. In this tale she has gone inside the head of Bridei, a
young boy destined for great things. Taken from his family to live with
the forbidding Druid, Broichan, in his structured household at the age
of four, Bridei is often lonely and frightened. Until one freezing
December night, he discovers a child on the doorstep.
knows enough to realize that she is no human baby, and immediately
conjures a basic hearth charm to protect her from being rejected by the
other members of the household. Fortunately the dour Broichan is away
at the time, for the old man instantly dislikes and distrusts this
unwanted intrusion onto his ambitious plans for Bridei and his training
as a king-in-waiting. This doesn't stop Tuala growing into a fey,
adventurous child who adores Bridei. He, in turn, finds that she is the
only person he can confide in. But, where does Tuala fit in Broichan's
grand schemes for Bridei? And what happens when she inevitably gets in
If you haven't yet encountered Marillier's excellent Sevenwaters
series, but enjoy well written, tightly plotted Fantasy in a strong
historical setting, then I highly recommend this book. Marillier's
knowledge about the time shines through every page. Authentic details
litter the everyday doings of these characters, without impeding the
pace or obstructing the storyline.
You won't find a host of sword-waving heroes dripping in lots of blood
and gore. But when Marillier does give you action, the encounters seem
all the more desperate because you really care about the characters.
And war is constantly in the background. There is talk of it;
discussions about how to deal with the aftermath by old warriors; long
grueling hours of practice and drills. Unlike many other Fantasy tales
of daring-do, however, a dread of warfare and its cost to the society is
depicted very clearly by those with most to lose.
the everyday, is a strong blend of magic and Otherness that fans of
Marillier will recognize. The power and ability carried by a few comes
at high price. Magic is about blood and sacrifice and most right
thinking people avoid it whenever they can.
This is a book about conflict. Circinn's king has turned to the new
Christian faith, creating a rift with other rulers who still hold to the
Druidic traditions. This schism creates opportunities for the
marauding Gaels. But there are also tensions on a more personal level.
Ambitious contenders target Bridei. High-born women destined to be
married off to secure treaties and produce heirs are bitter at their
This is no dewy-eyed gloss on a lost, glorious past but far more political and aware. I am just waiting for the library to send me Blade of Fortriu, so I won't have to wait too long for the next slice of life in this gripping series.