Having successfully splintered her spindle, Zinnia Gray has spent the past five years trying to rewrite her own ending. She jumps from story to story, freeing various Sleeping Beauties from their fates while attempting to escape her own. But suddenly, she finds herself in a completely different fairy tale with absolutely no clue what will happen next. The next book in my Pride Reads challenge is Alix E. Harrow’s A Mirror Mended.
A Mirror Mended is the sequel to A Spindle Splintered. In the way that the first book was a queer, feminist retelling of Sleeping Beauty, this book takes the typical Snow White tale and turns it on its head. It continues the themes from the first book about heroines having their own agency and introduces the idea of using your agency as redemption. Because in this story, the person Zinnia needs to rescue is not some damsel in distress princess, but the villain.
What I like about this book is that Harrow reminds you that there are multiple sides to every story. Fairy tales were often meant to be cautionary tales teaching children about dangerous situations – be careful when you go into the woods, don’t follow random strangers. The villains were often what we now refer to as “cartoonishly evil”, in that they’re usually over the top and don’t have much depth. They’re evil for evil’s sake, because the story needs a villain and they don’t serve a purpose other than that.
However, Eva, the evil queen who starts the story trying to learn how Zinnia jumps between universes, has a complete arc. She is the villain, the love interest, and the hero all in the span of less than 200 pages. It comes out at some point that her plot against Snow White was never meant to kill her – that she specifically chose that Huntsman because she knew he was too soft-hearted. All Eva – who didn’t even have her own name until Zinnia named her – was trying to do was take control of her own life.
The best villains are those whom you can see have a purpose and an ethos. For instance, Magneto is such a beloved villain because you can totally see where he’s coming from, and while he may be a little extreme in his views, he’s not entirely wrong. Likewise, Eva recounts to Zinnia the tale of a young girl who was sold into marriage in a foreign land that distrusted her from the outset, and when she finally thought she would have some say in her own life, she had to worried about being usurped by a young girl.
But none of that explains how Zinnia jumped from Sleeping Beauty to Snow White in the first place. The reason has a lot to do with trying to change your destiny. Yes, take control of your life, make choices for yourself, but also recognize when you’re just running away from your problems. You can’t outrun your own end.
A Spindle Splintered was a little bit meta, acknowledging the problems with most traditional versions of Sleeping Beauty and doing its level best to subvert expectations. A Mirror Mended is even more meta, with moments like Zinnia remarking that she knows falling for the villain is a little bit clichéd, and even a scene where Zinnia recounts the entire story to her old Classics professor, and the professor proceeds to poke holes in the plot structure and worldbuilding.
A Mirror Mended is a short, entertaining read that can easily be accomplished in an afternoon, if you’re anything like me. While I hesitate to call this story “cute”, since Zinnia and Eva go through some pretty dark moments, it’s a quietly hopeful sapphic romance that emphasizes the importance of living a life that makes you happy.
A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow is published by Tor.com and is currently available wherever books are sold.
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*I received an advance copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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