The glass of the [mirror] was smooth and perfect, and yet I didn’t see myself looking back. Instead, I found myself staring into the eyes of a lovely dark-haired woman in a black dress. “You are at a crossroad,” she said, “with three paths. I am bidden to give you a gift. You will live out three outcomes…to three difference choices. Then you will have the knowledge to know…to choose.” (Loc 244)
If you hate making decisions and always wonder “what if I had picked the other option”, Through a Dark Glass will be incredibly satisfying. This book was light, addictive, and YA age-appropriate (unlike Maas or high fantasy disguised as YA). I loved Hendee’s Noble Dead Saga (albeit most definitely not YA), so any of her works are a soft spot for me, and I ended up reading this cover to cover in one afternoon.
Set in a classic medieval-based fantasy world, Megan is the younger daughter of a high-powered noble family hiding an enormous debt incurred by the previous patriarch’s poor handling of finances (i.e. excessive drinking and gambling). After her older sister’s sudden (and untimely) death, Megan is forced to take her place as the promised wife to a lower-level nobility family offering a small fortune for a high-status bride. Her father demands the marriage go through to eliminate the secret debt and fortify her family’s status, but he grants her one “favor”: she can choose which of the three uncultured sons she will marry. In despair, Megan flees to an unused storage room where she discovers a large, ornate mirror. A woman appears on the surface and declares Megan will be given the opportunity to see how each marriage will play out before making her choice. The three subsequent parts of the book reveal how her life will go with each son, through every possible dramatic, scheming, romantic, independent, and murderous decision.
It’s hard not to say more about the political schemings and surprise twists throughout without ruining this book for future readers, so suffice to say each part forces Megan to face identical subsequent life-altering decisions, but the different choices she makes in each marriage create three distinctly different endings. Hendee’s writing is smooth and absorbing, and it was easy to get lost in this classic medieval world. Megan’s in-laws came with a great deal of family drama and each character had a strong and well-developed personality. While I was concerned there might be some character inconsistency among the three parts, each person stayed true to their nature (inconsistency is my pet peeve).
The mirror forces Megan to “live” each marriage as if she had already decided which son to marry (she is unaware that this is simply a future reveal or that she has already “lived” a previous marriage during each part), so we are able to see her experience three separate mini character arcs as well. While she starts out as something of a pushover, although fitting of a young woman in this period, we see her come into her own with every decision she faces in each of the three marriages. It is worth noting, though, that despite facing life-defining decisions, Megan does read as a young character.
The concept of seeing how one’s life would play out after a big life decision was fascinating. I would’ve loved this mirror at turning points in my life. However, I found at times that the three storylines became slightly repetitive. Occasional events (like Megan’s arrival at her new family’s estate) were written with nearly identical language between each marriage. Likewise, when I already knew the outcome of a decision Megan had previously faced once (or even twice) in an earlier part, I found myself skimming ahead.
Hendee gave Megan the ability to “read” a person’s intentions by seeing a vision of how a singular future event would play out if all went according to that person’s plans. While similar to the power of the woman in the mirror, Megan can only see exactly what the person plans to happen (the outcome, as we find out, does not always go according to plans). However, there hadn’t been much establishment of magic in this world previously, so this felt a tad out of place. Was this type of magic common? Did other people have similar or other abilities? This was one of a few unfinished subplots that forced the reader to pause mid-stride.
While the prologue gives some very brief background on the creation of the mirror and the woman’s entrapment inside it, it is unclear why Megan is given the opportunity to see how each marriage would play out. I assume we will see more in future books on the mysterious mirror woman’s background, and for that reason, I will likely read the sequels. While this book is certainly not the most complex novel, all in all, I couldn’t put it down. If you are looking for a fun and effortless YA read, this book is perfect.
Disclosure: I received this book through Goodreads’ Giveaways. This does not affect my opinion of the book or content of my review.