Plain Great Storytelling – ‘The Obsidian Mirror’ by Catherine Fisher

obsidianCatherine Fisher’s Obsidian Mirror is an old-fashioned storytelling treat. It’s hard to find fault with it. Aimed at a younger teen audience, it contains strong characters and exciting plots with thrills and spills aplenty.

The novel centres around two characters, Jake and Sarah. As the novel opens Jake is a misfit in an elite school in Switzerland. All he wants to do is avenge his father. Jake holds his Godfather and benefactor, Oberon Venn, responsible for his father’s disappearance. Sarah is a traveller from another place, pursued by a shadowy figure and his wolf of ice. Sarah throws herself upon the mercy of Oberon at his residence, Wintercombe Abbey. After Jake turns up, expelled from school and in disgrace, the two are thrown together. They have different motives for solving the same mysteries. At the heart of their quest for answers is the Chronoptikon; the obsidian mirror.

It is soon obvious that nothing is clear cut. Oberon is not the villain that Jake suspects him of being, but he is hiding many secrets and harbouring an obsession that threatens to doom everybody he knows. Oberon’s enigmatic butler brings some comic relief, but there is steel beneath his jovial exterior. Fisher’s villains are menacing. The ruthless Janus has exterminated Sarah’s friends and family and will stop at nothing to kill her too. And there is the scarred man, who is he and what is his connection to the Chronoptikon? The beauty of this novel is that the motives of just about every character are unclear. It is a story is filled with layers of lies and complex truths.

If that wasn’t enough, the novel includes time-travelling scientists, antique journals and magic notebooks. There is even an enchanted wood with an army of fey elves. All this is bound together in an elegant and entertaining plot, that keeps the reader guessing right until the end. Fisher tells her tale in succinct and sparkling prose. There is no padding, just page after page of exceptional storytelling. This is the first book in a proposed series and I am very much looking forward to part two.

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