Series: Chronoptika #1
on April 23, 2013
Genres: fantasy, science fiction, young adult
Source: ARC from publisher
Buy it: Amazon • Add it: Goodreads
Jake’s father disappears while working on mysterious experiments with the obsessive, reclusive Oberon Venn. Jake is convinced Venn has murdered him. But the truth he finds at the snow-bound Wintercombe Abbey is far stranger … The experiments concerned a black mirror, which is a portal to both the past and the future. Venn is not alone in wanting to use its powers. Strangers begin gathering in and around Venn’s estate: Sarah – a runaway, who appears out of nowhere and is clearly not what she says, Maskelyne – who claims the mirror was stolen from him in some past century. There are others, a product of the mirror’s power to twist time. And a tribe of elemental beings surround this isolated estate, fey, cold, untrustworthy, and filled with hate for humans. But of them all, Jake is hell-bent on using the mirror to get to the truth. Whatever the cost, he must learn what really happened to his father.
Where do I begin? This book was everything I hoped it would be and then some. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – the blurb was intriguing but vague, so it left a lot to the imagination (or the lack of such). Normally, this would have either turned me off or sent me spiraling into the abyss, lost in my own ideas about the plot and what should happen. But that didn’t happen this time. I knew it would be good. I knew it would be different, maybe even strange. And that was all I needed.
Since finishing the book, I’ve noticed that one thing other reviewers were…put out by was the fact that this was really more of a middle grade book than young adult. I’m not sure that I agree with this assessment. The (arguably) main character, Jake, is a bit younger I think than most of the characters I read about in YA novels, but that aside I think this book still deals with some very YA issues – death, loss, the price of power, the grey areas between right and wrong, etc. Personally, not one time while reading the book did I stop and think, “What is this foolery? They’ve sent me an MG book disguised as YA! A curse upon your house!” or anything like that – so I’d be confident in saying that it’s a non-issue.
Fisher does an amazing job of blending all sorts of genres – fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, a dash of steampunk, and even some paranormal – in this book. To be expected, of course, because that’s just what she does. I think there’s a little bit of something for everyone in this one, but you don’t have to worry about getting too bogged down in one thing.
THERE’S TIME TRAVEL. I mean, that’s basically what the story is about so that’s to be expected too, but I really enjoyed how nothing was as linear and clean as time travel is often portrayed in books and movies these days. It’s weird and messy and more than a little dangerous and that made it extremely exciting. THERE ARE ALSO SEVERAL DIFFERENT POVs. I feel the need to throw those out there from the start because if you’re going to read this book, you’re going to have to pay attention – and there are a few places in the book where that gets hard with 5 different things going on at once. So if you don’t like that sort of thing, this probably isn’t the book for you.
The Obsidian Mirror finds us shadowing Jake, a seemingly mischievous and even irritating boy who has pretty much been dumped off at a posh boarding school by his mysterious guardian after the equally mysterious “disappearance” of his father. Jake is doing all he can to be kicked out of school because he wants to confront his guardian, Oberon Venn. Jake is convinced that his father is not missing at all but rather murdered – by the hand of Venn – and he is on a mission to figure out the truth about what happened and bring his father’s killer to justice.
Jake’s first wish comes true and he is indeed released from the school – but his headmaster insists on having one of Jake’s teachers, Wharton, accompany him to Venn’s property in Wintercombe. The two embark on a journey that is action-packed, full of twists and strange characters and even stranger occurrences. Along the way they meet Piers, Venn’s strange butler who claims to be enslaved by Venn; Sarah, a mysterious girl who isn’t who she says she is; Gideon, a changeling whose only wish is to escape the Shee that have held him captive for centuries; and Maskelyne, a scarred man who wants to take back what never should have been taken from him to begin with. What is Venn’s connection to Summer and the Shee folk? Why is Sarah on the run from a ghost-like man and his ghost-like wolf? How does a strange black mirror hold the key to time travel…and the fate of the entire world? And what REALLY happened to Jake’s father?
There are plenty of secrets in Wintercombe. Some are revealed by the end of the book, others are left to the imagination of the reader. One thing is for sure: The Obsidian Mirror will leave you haunted, begging for more.
Catherine Fisher weaves a seamless tale of magic, love, and loss that will reach out and grab you from page 1. Despite a cast of characters that ends up being quite large and the differing viewpoints, I never once felt lost while reading this book. It was a solid 4-star read for me, full of mystery and suspense – and quite unlike anything else I’ve ever read. I can’t wait to see what happens in book two!