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on September 9, 2012
Very well written story that combines historical occurances with fantasy. The author's rich vocabulary gives the reader a great mental/visual description of the events that took place in 17th century England. Fascinating reading. I'm looking forward for another book by this author, Jocelyn Murray. Good job!
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on October 21, 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found myself caught up in the story and wanting more detailed information about the characters despite the info given at the end.
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on June 24, 2013
I bought this for my 12 year old daughter as an alternative to the dystopian fiction that kids seem hooked on these days and when she took a break, I grabbed it and started reading it myself. What a great surprise! I occasionally read historical fiction so am familiar with the genre (and this is all based on a remarkable true story), but I never remotely thought I'd get pulled into this like I did. Murray is a very talented writer and story-teller and I'm again jealous of another author. If there indeed were punctuation and grammar issues when the book was first offered as one reviewer complains of, they have since been fixed, I noticed none.

The plot is simple: Anna, a bright and curious 15 year old, discovers an old mirror in her grandmother's house and magically steps into 1643, smack in the middle of the English Civil War. In the ensuing adventure she begins to learn the meaning of courage. Murray doesn't spend time explaining how or why this happens, but gets right into the telling of the story.

The first half of the book is very descriptive, thoroughly fleshing out the environment of 17th century English castle-life. Foods, clothes, customs, the darkness of the nights without electric lights, the quietness of the days without planes and cars, and all the little things that might not occur to you at first thought are explained in thoughtful detail:

~ Anna looked out over the landscape. It rose and dipped for miles, rugged and rocky, then soft and velvety as the meadows blended into the craggy heath. It was hard to believe that something so pretty had been witness to something so ugly. But then she remembered the spider and the butterfly they had just passed moments before...

Around the mid-point of the book, the excitement begins, and Anna is pulled into the conflict as she tries to find her role while helping her "cousin" Elizabeth defend the castle from a besieging army. There is excitement, trickery, humor, doubt, and fear and a poignant moment when she comes face to face with the evils of war as she struggled for her very life:

~ Tossing hot embers was just as difficult when Anna watched in shock as several of the enemy caught fire. One of them had reached the top of the wall, his roughly gloved hands grasping the battlements. His helmet must have fallen off in the climb. Stepping back briefly in surprise, she grabbed one of the embers with her gloved hands and threw it in his face. He ducked a moment so that the smoldering piece glanced off his head. One spark was all it took for his hair to ignite. For a moment Anna could do nothing but stare in horror as his hair caught fire and burned wildly. The pungent smell of scorched hair and flesh was revolting, but she still could not avert her eyes as she watched in morbid fascination, the flames engulfing his face like a malevolent halo crowning a god of the underworld. Then their eyes lock in an excruciating moment that Anna would never forget as long as she lived. In the depths of those liquid orbs, wild with panic and fear, Anna saw the awareness of his mortality flash before him, and the vain grasping at a life that was fast slipping away. He stared into her eyes, pleading for something, but what? And as the fire consumed him, he lost his grasp and footing, and a blood-curdling scream escaped him as he plunged to his death below.

And as the story progresses to its finish, Murray inserts some fine examples of insightful and touching writing:

~ "Time stops when one is ill. Gravely ill." Anna told her. She was remembering a time when she had been sick with rheumatic fever as a young child. Her joints had been so inflamed she could not even walk to the bathroom. Her father had to carry her. The pain was a blur now, but time seemed to have stopped then. Pain and illness have a way of pulling you out of time's current and leaving you momentarily by the wayside. Your world shrinks to a string of moments, held together by an acute awareness of nothing, save your own overwhelming predicament.

The Gilded Mirror: Corfe Castle is a surprise gem, a clean and healthy well-written alternative to what's commonly offered to teens (and adults!) these days. Murray obviously loves her subject and is as good a writer of historical fiction as is out there.
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on April 8, 2013
Nice little book about a girl who travels back in time via a magical mirror she finds in storage at her grandmother's house. The characters were engaging, and I found this to be a very good read and a nice piece of escapist literature. I may get the second book to see what happens next.
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on October 9, 2012
A fascinating tale about the actual siege that took place in 1643 when Parliamentarians sought to capture Corfe Castle during the English Civil War. Some of the characters are based on the real people who were there. The story unfolds beautifully, drawing the reader into the lives of the characters and the conflict they experienced as the tension escalated. It brings the events that happened to life in exquisite detail. This is a great book for older children and adults who love historical fiction and stories about courage and bravery amid great odds. The mirror itself makes for a wonderful premise that lends itself well to future books, and something that I would definitely look forward reading.

The knowledge of the period that the author shows is amazing! This is a must read book! it will become a classic!
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on December 7, 2012
I enjoyed reading this book because it made me feel like I was in the mid 1600s. The book provided great descriptions and made it easy to feel what it was like to live at that time. The tight bond between Anna and Elizabeth was carried throughout the book and I was sad when it was time for Anna to leave and go back to the present. The vivid descriptions of the castle siege and Anna's part in protecting it made chill bumps along my spine. This was a blend of the fantasy world and the historical world. The fantasy world explains why Anna was accepted readily by those in the seventeenth century. A good read for young adults.
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on November 5, 2012
This is one of a series of books written to describe life in various times of history. This one is set in Corfe Castle, Dorset England about 1643 A.D. during the first siege of the castle. I think it gives a fairly accurate a view of life as we know it. I enjoyed it even though it is written for young readers. Wikipedia shows a picture of Lady Mary Bankes who led the defense of the castle.
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on November 5, 2012
Very interesting and a fast read. Great for young adults. Keeps you interested and almost flipping the pages too fast.
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on July 28, 2014
I thought this went a little slow and going through the looking glass like Alice was a bit much . I will admit it was a good read after all . Will try an other book by this author to see if I like her style.
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on June 3, 2014
I have always loved history, especially about England. It was refreshing to come across a YA series that combines both historical accuracy with an exciting historical plot.

Planning on buying some more to give as gifts to my nieces and nephews.
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