Through A Brazen Mirror, by Delia Sherman

through-a-brazen-mirror-by-delia-sherman coverGenre: Fantasy
Publisher: First Circlet Press
Published: 1989
Reviewer Rating: five stars
Book Review by Lisa DuMond

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When this superb fantasy first appeared in print in 1989 it was published with high hopes and with little or no chance. Unfortunately, it sank like a lead feather. Unfortunate for us, that is.

Here is quite possibly the finest, most accurate fantasy written since the middle ages. (Of course, it wouldn’t have been a story then — just news, current events, or gossip.) This is a stunning recreation of a place, a time, and its people long gone, with such a vivid depiction that readers will feel firmly in the heart of the action. Sherman’s grasp of setting, language, and behavior act as a snare to pull readers ever deeper into the story of a widowed woman’s search for peace and survival.

This is a unique kind of book, the type that you find creeping into your thoughts and coloring your language — in other words, the best kind. Just keep a tight rein on your flowery language or people might stare.

How could a wonderful novel such as this fade away? Delia Sherman did anything but fade away. She won the 1994 Mythopoeic Award for her novel The Porcelain Dove. And, on top of authoring numerous short stories, she co-edited The Essential Bordertown. What could possibly have cost Through A Brazen Mirror its rightful place among fantasy’s best?

Ah yes. Did I mention that this is a Queer fantasy?

The handsome king in this tale has a taste for the strapping young men of his court. The female servants swoon over a quiet, romantically somber youth, who happens to be a woman in disguise. And the merciless sorceress who plagues the kingdom of Albia grows queasy at the thought of being touched by another man after, essentially, being raped over the years by the slovenly, lecherous sorcerer who trained her in the dark arts.

So, is this a shocking escapade of illicit, explicit sex and titillation? Hardly.

Sherman’s deft touch unveils her characters’ desires in a subtle, utterly human manner that shows far more restraint and affection than most heterosexual love stories. Anyone who could be offended by the gentle, unapologetic homosexual themes in this novel doesn’t deserve the sheer pleasure of reading it. No, Sherman hasn’t presented us with yet another predictable sword-and-sorcery fantasy, but with a tale that takes a realistic look at medieval times. And captures us utterly.

This is one of the rare times in your life you’re being given a second chance at something valuable. Grab the opportunity while you can; it may not come around again and you don’t want to miss it.

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