Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Mirrored Gate by Somerset McCoy

A Saturday shopping trip changes Alice's life forever, as she stumbles upon the gateway to a faerie otherworld in a department store mirror. Lost and alone in a place where dark forces are taking control, she must place her trust in the only one willing to help her, and join the fight against a phantom queen who wants to steal both of their hearts. Literally.

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Note: I received a free copy of this from the author in exchange for an honest review.

A cute story spun from equal parts fantasy, light romance, and whimsy. Patterned after Alice in Wonderland, it is still quite unique, for this "wonderland" is really a part of the Faerie realm that is a sort of mirror imaged version of London. Many familiar characters can be seen throughout, but they get blended with figures from Irish/Celtic folklore regarding the Fair Folk, and the end result is something that really only makes respectful, playful nods at the original tale then proceeds to go its own way.

Alice in this story is a librarian that works for the British Library. One Saturday she goes to Hamptons department store to shop for a dress for an wedding she's scheduled to attend the following weekend. When she takes her choices into the dressing room to try them on, however, she discovers that the mirror in the little cubby is misty and strange. Investigating it, she ends up stepping through it and finds herself in an alternate version of the store, only this one is deserted and everything is flipped from how it should be. After she finds her way out of the store, she ends up following a white rabbit through the streets of this odd version of London and down into the Underground. After a bit, she encounters Drake, whom she had seen at a bar in her London the weekend prior, though he'd vanished before she had a chance to talk to him. He becomes her escort and companion, and together they become embroiled in a weekend adventure to free Unden (the faerie London) from the evil of the MorrĂ­gan.

There's not a lot in the way of deep characterization here, but the main players still stand out as individuals and not just stereotypes. Alice is independent and courageous, though also oddly unphased by all the weirdness she finds herself in the middle of. She does have the sense to be truly scared at times, but since she seems to have been a fairly mundane and fairly down-to-earth sort of person one would think she'd have been more than a little bit freaked out by things, but she mostly just takes them in stride. I get that for the sake of the story she needed to be participating in things and not just a gibbering, hysterical basket case, but still, a little more "OMG, WTF?" sort of reaction would have been nice to see, if only because it would have been more normal and believable.

Drake isn't quite so developed, but still is an interesting character. Half-Faerie and Half-Human, he's been existing in both worlds, but hasn't been entirely comfortable in either. Still, he is reasonably self-assured and confident, without being alpha-male arrogant about it. He takes a fairly down-to-earth, practical approach toward things, and though he takes charge in escorting Alice around Unden and acting as her protector, he still treats her totally as an equal and approaches their budding relationship in much the same manner as any normal guy would, by talking with her, taking her out for drinks (non-alcoholic), and later arranging to meet her in London after she gets off work for a date in the human world. He doesn't seem to presume anything about their relationship, despite the fact that they end up sleeping together the two nights she spends in Unden, and you can't help but like him better for it.

Overall I found this to be a very pleasant story that held my attention and often made me smile or laugh (though the laughter was often at some line or action that was a bit ridiculous). I can't say it really wow'd me, but it did entertain me nicely, and for that I'd give it a good 3½ stars. With a bit more wow-factor, or a bit more heat (the sex happens entirely "offstage" in between chapters) it might have pushed up to a 4. I'd recommend this for anyone with a love of fantasy who's looking for a quick, light, whimsical read.

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