Review: A Mirror Mended, by Alix E. Harrow

Russ Allbery eagle at
Mon Jul 4 19:28:41 PDT 2022

A Mirror Mended
by Alix E. Harrow

Series:    Fractured Fables #2
Publisher: Tordotcom
Copyright: 2022
ISBN:      1-250-76665-6
Format:    Kindle
Pages:     129

This is a direct sequel to A Spindle Splintered and will completely
spoil that story, so start there rather than here.

A Mirror Mended opens with a glimpse at yet another version of the
Sleeping Beauty story, this one (delightfully) a Spanish telenovela.
Zinnia is world-hopping, something that's lost some of the meaning from
A Spindle Splintered and become an escape from other problems. She's
about ready to leave this world as well when she sees a face that is
not hers in the bathroom mirror, pleading for help. Zinnia assumes this
is yet another sleeping beauty, albeit an unusual one. Zinnia is wrong.

Readers of A Spindle Splintered are going to groan when I tell you that
Zinnia has managed to damage most of the relationships that she made in
the first story, which means we get a bit of an episodic reset of
unhappiness mixed with an all-new glob of guilt. Not only is this a
depressing way to start a new story, it also means there are no snarky
text messages and side commentary. Grumble. Harrow is isolating Zinnia
to set up a strange and fraught alliance that turns into a great story,
but given that Zinnia's friend network was my favorite part of the
first novella, the start of this story made me grumpy.

Stick with it, though, since Harrow does more than introduce another
fairy tale. She also introduces a villain, one who wishes to be more
complicated than her story allows and who knows rather more about the
structure of the world than she should. This time, the fairy tale goes
off the rails in a more directly subversive way that prods at the bones
of Harrow's world-building.

This may or may not be what you want, and I admit I liked the first
story better. A Spindle Splintered took fairy tales just seriously
enough to make a plot, but didn't poke at its premises deeply enough to
destabilize them. It played off of fairy tales themselves; A Mirror
Mended instead plays off of Harrow's previous story by looking directly
at the invented metaphysics of parallel worlds playing out fairy tale
archetypes. Some of this worked for me: Eva is a great character and
the dynamic between her and Zinnia is highly entertaining. Some of it
didn't: the impact on universal metaphysics of Zinnia's adventuring is
a bit cliched and inadequately explained. A Mirror Mended is a
character exploration with a bit more angst and ambiguity, which means
it isn't as delightfully balanced and free-wheeling.

I will reassure you with the minor spoiler that Zinnia does eventually
pull her head out of her ass when she has to, and while there is
nowhere near enough Charm in this book for my taste, there is some. In
exchange for the relationship screw-ups, we get the Zinnia/Eva dynamic,
which I was really enjoying by the end. One of my favorite tropes is
accidental empathy, where someone who is being flippant and sarcastic
stumbles into a way of truly helping someone else and is wise enough to
notice it. There are several great moments of that. I like Zinnia, even
this older, more conflicted, and less cavalier version.

Recommended if you liked the first story, although be warned that this
replaces the earlier magic with some harder relationship work and the
payoff is more hinted at than fully shown.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2022-07-04


Russ Allbery (eagle at             <>

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