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Prison Made of Mirrors Paperback – March 6, 2017
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About the Author
Jennifer Loring has been, among other things, a DJ, an insurance claims assistant, and an editor. Her short fiction has been published widely both online and in print; she has worked with Crystal Lake Publishing, DarkFuse, and Crowded Quarantine, among many others. Longer work most notably includes the contemporary/sports romance series The Firebird Trilogy and the critically acclaimed novella Conduits. She lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband, their turtle, and two basset hounds.
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Top customer reviews
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This is not a fractured fairy tell so much as a retelling of the familiar Snow White story set within the realm of a new culture and environment. The level of research Loring did for this story is stunning, and fully immersed me into the world of Vikings during their era of plundering Britannia. The realistic details of running a chieftain’s longhouse intertwined seamlessly with the larger fantasy elements of magic, werewolves, and dwarves tailored specifically for the world the author created.
Everything about this story was beautifully imagined, translated seamlessly onto the page with vivid imagery and poignant detail. However, I missed very much emotional connection with the characters. Much time was spent with the evil queen, and despite her tragic beginnings, no traces of sympathetic villain are left by the end of the tale. In contrast, her daughter and the nominal hero of the tale was too perfect to be realistic, even as that perfection is in keeping with the source material. The gorgeous descriptions and quality of writing kept me reading rather than support or hatred of the point of view characters.
This is not Disney’s Snow White, but I wish the author had taken more liberties with the story rather than re-imagining it so faithfully in a different context. Though everything ties up neatly at the end, it leaves reader on a poignant note rather than a hopeful future.
I was kind of eager to read it because I really did like the cover (even though it’s not much more than an obvious stock photo with some runes overlaid with light transparency—but it works because of the sense of story it conjures.) I was a little surprised when it arrived in such a small package; it’s actually a novella . That’s neither here nor there, just something I hadn’t really recognized… that means it’s a faster read: like a long lunch break if you read fast.
What I didn’t like:
The story doesn’t really start until chapter three. I was a little discouraged immediately when the opening paragraph was an obvious info dump to establishing the setting. There were also some grammar errors that should’ve been caught (like an unfinished sentence which started and then a new one with capitalized word began—like the author might’ve accidentally deleted a section during reedit but didn’t have a proofreader to catch the error,) and some inconsistencies with terms that didn’t really get explained. In fact, I almost gave up since Ch2 was still talking about irrelevant people and not the main character. But I’m glad I didn’t give up and the beginning makes more sense when read below (and it gets easier when the 1st two chapters worth of “narrator voice” goes away and the story really begins).
What I liked:
The first moment I really started to like the book was when Queen Aithne’s personality began to come out (not her traits—it’s easy to write about someone, less easy to make them alive)—she suddenly began to feel like Game of Throne’s Cerci, or Vikings’ Aslog. I guess I’d figured the book would be mostly passive and, knowing the Viking content, thought maybe the author was going for a story as if told by a skald at a bonfire. …but Aithne isn’t likeable and so it didn’t hook me yet. Then there was a werewolf. I’m in. Vikings + werewolves basically guarantees I’m going to read it through.
While the main character isn’t a werewolf, I was starting to enjoy the story more and really liked the Dvergar whom Brenna (the MC) met at the mid-point. I don’t know why I didn’t realize it until then, but I recognized that this is a retelling of Snow White set in a Scandinavian/Viking backdrop. The waxing passivity of the first two chapters made sense when I realized the author was writing as if this were a dark Disney movie set in a parallel kingdom to Ragnar Lothbrook—the first two chapters are that little snippet of film thrown out to lay a framework right before the main Title Screen flashes across the screen. I think it would’ve worked better as a prologue, in that sense, but it’s not my book. Maybe I figured it out later than most people… I dunno, but it made the issues I had initially with the book uncomfortable rather than unforgiveable.
Another thing I liked was that Loring, once the stage was set, maintained consistency in the world (outside of those few inconsistencies early on) and things like names and terms or an obviously Nordic origin (even alternate/archaic spellings such as dvergar versus duregar) really gave the story a well-crafted atmosphere; she did not break the setting by trying to force it either (like annunciating accents into the speech—I hate that so much, and she avoided that trap).
It’s worth picking up, especially if you liked the Vikings series or Snow White and the Huntsman movie(s). I got a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Aithe is a warrior in her homeland and she is kidnapped by a Viking king when he raids her village and makes her his queen. She discovers that her King had a mother who past who was a Volva (a witch) when she becomes pregnant. Aithe bears her king a girl and names her Brenna and believes the child is cursed and so becomes mad and starts Brenna's a hunt to kill her after she falls in love with another prince and exiles her from her own kingdom.