With The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Stephen R. Donaldson changed the face of fantasy fiction forever. In The Mirror of Her Dreams, the astonishing first novel in the two-volume Mordant’s Need series, Donaldson shows us a world of wondrous beauty and seductive illusion, where mirrors hold the deadliest of magics and nothing is what it seems.
The daughter of rich but neglectful parents, Terisa Morgan lives alone in a New York City apartment, a young woman who has grown to doubt her own existence. Surrounded by the flat reassurance of mirrors, she leads an unfulfilled life - until the night a strange man named Geraden comes crashing through one of her mirrors, on a quest to find a champion to save his kingdom of Mordant from a pervasive evil that threatens the land. Terisa is no champion. She wields neither magic nor power. And yet, much to her own surprise, when Geraden begs her to come back with him, she agrees.
Now, in a culture where women are little more than the playthings of powerful men, in a castle honeycombed with secret passages and clever traps, in a kingdom threatened from without and within by enemies able to appear and vanish out of thin air, Terisa must become more than the pale reflection of a person. For the way back to Earth is closed to her. And the enemies of Mordant will stop at nothing to see her dead.
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Scott Brick+Donaldson=Winning Combination
I'm listening to "Mirror of Her Dreams" (for the second time) while writing this review. I love it so much that I want to listen to it until I have pieces of it memorized. Those familiar with Brick's readings of the "Covenant" series will understand why. For those who aren't familiar with those recordings, I'll try to explain...
Scott Brick is often an understated narrator (as at least one other reviewer has noted, though calling his voice or this reading boring is grossly inaccurate), but he is always, *always* committed to the story, the characters and (first and most importantly) the words. He's an ideal reader for any book with a strong emphasis on character development because his style is nuanced and complex, marked by small changes in tone instead of histrionics. That's not to say that he isn't capable of a nice loud bellow every once in a while, but (again) only when the text calls for it.
"The Mirror of Her Dreams" and its sequel, "A Man Rides Through," collectively called "Mordant's Need," is one of Donaldson's more peripheral works, a status that it deserves in a superficial way. It's more conventional (plot-wise) than either "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" (all three) and the Gap series. But its ideas, particularly regarding reality and identity, are as complex as anything in those two series--as complex as anything in Donaldson's oeuvre. But it takes a while to get to those ideas. You'll listen to about an hour of this audiobook before the plot *really* gets going, but after that it's a joy on multiple levels: for its story, intellectually, and for its truly stellar characters.
One character in particular may be responsible for Mordant's Need's (relative) unpopularity: Terisa Morgan. She's the primary viewpoint character and for the first volume (this one) she does some fairly unlikable things and behaves in very frustrating ways. She struggles with her own existence and allows other (obviously bad) people to manipulate her into harming other (much better) characters. Some (in Amazon.com reviews) have called it a sexist portrayal but this is untrue. Terisa does forge her own identity in the end, but (unfortunately) most of that happens in the second book. For this one, you'll have to content yourself with the loyal-but-accident-prone Geraden, the old dodder and his dastard, King Joyse and Adept Havelock, the hilarious Tor, the dreamy idealistic Myste...I could go on, but you get the idea. Every character in Mordant (the story's fantasy world) is either lovable or fascinating--occasionally both. Even the villain is well and compellingly drawn--a character who likes causing havoc just for the sake of it sometimes, but who is also a devious, careful planner.
The "Mordant's Need" books really aren't like anything else. One might compare them to those fantasy/romance novels on the shelf based on pieces of their plot, but that comparison would be unfair: these are far better. "The Mirror of Her Dreams" resembles, in its intricacy and detailed world, historical fiction; its plot is suspenseful and full of intrigue, though it starts slow; and the characters are all realistically and sympathetically drawn, even characters that other authors would make you dislike.
My favorite scene (in this volume, at least) is probably the one between Terisa, Master Eremis and Geraden--when Geraden keeps *cough* "interrupting" the other two. It is not a scene I can read in public; I laugh far too much. Scott Brick's reading of this scene is also dead-on convincing; I could see the characters voicing the words (in his tone) in my head.
A close second has to be Terisa's last conversation with Myste. This scene is a turning point of the story, but I think a lot of people miss its significance (when reading) because it is comparatively quiet in terms of action. Again, it's read perfectly here, and Myste (already a compelling character on paper) fairly pops out of the page, her faraway gaze coming into focus at least for a moment.
Also, I love all the scenes with Adept Havelock. This book is full of fantastic scenes--and it is also better than the sum of its parts.
There is a point in this book when a 20+-ton wall/ceiling falls in on a (very much beloved) character. The pages that follow are incredibly moving, though not for the reasons that you'd think.
This audiobook is already making me excited for the day when Scott Brick reads Donaldson's "Gap" series. I can't wait!
- C. Lunde
Thank Heavens, It's Finally Over!
- Benjamin "Likes to listen while doing chores; likes to write reviews while he should be doing chores."