Magic Mirror Mayhem: R.S. Novell’s Reflections

                Mirrors are always a little otherworldly and weird — perhaps because they provide exact duplicates of yourself and everything around you — and its no mistake that they pop up in Fantasy fiction as portals, artifacts and plot elements. One of my favorite mirror stories is China Mieville’s novella The Tain, which has all the reflections popping out of their mirrors to declare war on humanity. It’s a whacky and yet seriously chilling little tale. R.S. Novell’s novella, Reflections, takes a less drastic approach but still creates a fun little story about a magic mirror with prophetic powers and the poor guy who inherits it.

                That guy is Graham, an average sort of dude with a wife and son who he loves very much. He inherits this mirror after his father dies and puts it in his attic — but soon starts to notice it displaying strange and misty figures that only he can see. He might be asking ‘mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most accident prone of all?’ because the people he see reflected in the mirror are going to die in some way unless he stops them. Luckily, all the potential victims will cross path with him in his day-to-day life. He just has to be on the lookout and follow them around, preventing catastrophe while trying to remain inconspicuous so he doesn’t have to explain that he’s got a magic mirror in his attic.

                It’s a neat set-up and I could see how it could lead him into all sorts of odd situations. Balancing a normal life while saving random people feels like the set-up for a ‘one victim an episode’ TV show. The magical realism nature of the magic mirror (it’s never explained how exactly it works or how Graham’s dad got it) and the way it keeps affecting his life reminded me more than a little the dearly departed TV show Pushing Daisies, only without the charming, retro 1950s cuteness that made that show so appealing. Graham’s everyman persona and his loving conflict-free family are sympathetic, if not particularly unique or interesting. The main character of Pushing Daisies was like that too — which is why he had a bunch of whacky supporting characters following him around. You won’t find that in Reflections, but because this is a neat novella, Graham’s simplicity works fairly well. He’s a decent guy who loves his wife and son and you end up caring for him and hoping that it will all work out all right, as well as hoping that he’ll save the prophesized victims.

                Reflections did have a few other minor flaws. The writing, while good, never really reached any profound heights. The workmanlike prose ably described the magic mirror and Graham’s surroundings, but I would have appreciated some more interesting figurative language or perhaps a greater sense of humor or weirdness. It all felt very rote. I also felt like the story could have been longer and more complex. I found myself wondering about the source of the magic mirror and why it’s so magical — and the story has sort of an open ending that could easily lead to more adventures. I think these ideas might have been more developed in a longer work, but there is something to be said for a neat, punchy novella that tells the story it wants to and ends succinctly. And the fact that it left me wanting more can only be a good sign.

                Overall, I enjoyed gazing into the mirror world of Reflections. If you like stories about magic mirrors, I’d recommend giving it a look.

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