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Pen’s been through hell and back with the scars to prove it. All for her best friend Beth, who dragged her into a world of spirits, deities and monsters. When her mirror sister Parva, forged from her reflections in a school bathroom mirror, goes missing Pen determines to track her down – no matter the cost! She pays the price to enter London-Under-Glass and must trade her most valuable commodity her scars to find answers.
First off, I didn’t read the first book. Since this was an ARC I was thrown into the world without any backup. I thought the book blurb so fascinating I requested the book anyway!! I didn’t make a mistake though I was almost totally lost during Beth’s parts. I did suss out what was happening by the end but really I was totally reading for Pen. I found her scars and the mirror sister totally intriguing and very creepy.
“…learned as much as she could about the mirrorstocracy and their city behind the mirrors. The girl on the other side of the glass had come from her—she was composed of all the infinite reflections of her that had been caught between the two mirror… Pen and Parva had diverged from that moment in time like beams of refracted light; now Parva had her own feelings, her own life…”
I found my self intrigued then almost immediately I was drowning. I totally didn’t get Beth’s world. It felt heavy and hard to follow. I feel like that must be because there are certain assumptions about what I know and so minimal setup was used in reestablishing that world. I didn’t really get Beth and Pen’s relationship though I understood Beth is going through grief and massive body changes and Pen is resentful toward the world Beth loves so much as it gave her, her horrible scars. I totally fell for London-Under-Glass once we entered it at about 25% and mysteriously Beth’s scenes also became quite fascinating and more understandable after that point.
The world of London-Under-Glass was so fascinating! I loved this idea that the people idolized Parva due to the scars that Pen had endured in the previous book! It is such a switch of the idea of beauty! The preceptiture or rain of slate and brick is so fascinating and the face mirroring shines such a perspective on our own focus on beauty. The idea of the eye device to find tiny bits of reflections was a very cool way to focus the world around Parva. I also thought the idea of the IDs was torturous and very cool in a brutal sort of way. As were the different things characters from London-Under-Glass did to their faces due to debts. The steeplejill Epsel is quite refreshing in the heavy world, I like how she was used to explain stuff in a very organic way.
From my understanding of Beth, I wasn’t surprised at the relationship between Pen and Espel. This is nothing if not a modern story. For another writer Espel would have been a male, but in the mirrored world it made sense to me that Pen would love a woman. I’m not sure it fit their back history at all but for the traumatized Pen it made sense (and frankly Espel was the character she spent the most time with so it makes some kind of sense that that is who she fell in love with!) I liked that Pen chose to tell the truth in the end but felt it would be more realistic for Pen to lose something for the telling. Unfortunately that is how life is and it made the modernity of the story fail at this point.
The plot was not as fluid as I’d have liked. I didn’t see the sense of Pen’s decisions, they seemed to have a random sort of reasoning to them that fit where the author wanted the story to go. As a result it was hard to like Pen. The plot was definitely interesting especially as it pertained to the world and showing us something new about it. For example, I really liked the characters Cray and Jack but we only saw them momentarily. It was almost like the reader would mistake them for love interests if one of them lingered in the story too long. Hence we only get two cool stories about them. Both of these guys showed us an aspect of the world that added a lot and made them a likable addition to Pen’s story. The cement men were also very cool creatures that added a lot of intrigue in the later part of the book. Finding Parva was certainly a highlight of the book and actually quite sad but almost perfect too.
BOTTOM LINE: The world is worth delving into and Pen takes you on a grand tour…
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.