Mirror Sight (Green Rider, #5)
by Kristen Britain
Cover Artist: Donato Giancola
Review by Sam Lubell
DAW Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756408794
Date: 06 May 2014 List Price $27.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Normally one might wonder at a review of the fifth book of a series. Surely by now the readers have made up their minds whether to read the Green Rider books, and, if so, would start with the first one. However, Mirror Sight proves to be an exception to the rule. First, the previous volume, Blackveil was a little disappointing so some readers might be a bit reluctant to continue with the series unless the author made a major change to the formula. That's exactly what Britain has done here, taking her heroine Karigan G'ladheon, a Green Rider of the king's messenger service, a couple hundred years into the future into a world of guns and slaves, roughly equivalent to our early 19th century, but very little magic. Second, because of this time jump, Mirror Sight can be enjoyed by readers who are new to the Green Rider series since Karigan also is new to this future world and needs everything explained.
The book opens with Karigan trapped in a sarcophagus that is opened as part of a circus act. She escapes and wanders a strange city before being rescued by Professor Bryce Josston, an archaeologist, who at first does not believe her claims of being a Green Rider serving King Zachary. There has been no kingdom of Sacoridia for almost 200 years and the land is part of the Serpentine Empire. The professor is known for taking in strays and is willing to pretend that she is his niece, previously housed at a mental institution.
After Karigan proves her identity, the professor admits to being part of a rebellion against the empire and is protecting the last secret heir of King Zachary. Kade, one of the professor's students, is trying to master the secrets of the Weapons of Karigan's day in order to protect the heir.
Meanwhile, Lhean Lifeson, one of the elflike Eletians on Karigan's exploration of Blackveil Forest, has also been moved forward in time. He is captured by Dr. Silk, a more ruthless archaeologist (and the son of the emperor's chief minister) who grows suspicious of Karigan's identity. Despite everyone insisting that she has to be more ladylike and her own growing attraction to Kade, Karigan is determined to rescue Lhean, return to her own time, and somehow prevent the defeat of her king and the formation of the empire.
Although Mirror Sight is a sizable 770 pages, the pacing moves quickly. Characterization is a major strength of the book and even minor characters like Mirriam, the head servant in the professor's household seems real. There is a wonderful scene where after several chapters where Karigan literally goes on tip toe to hide her secrets from Mirriam, she finally puts her in her place, saying she does not have to answer to servants, over, of all things, whether she could open a window. The professor could have too easily been written as a stereotype, but instead comes across as sincere, but very much a product of his station in life. Kade is another strong character, whose lower class background (he is a former child thief) contrasts nicely with the professor's more aristocratic nature. Some scenes of the book verge on romantic comedy, especially as Karigan flouts this society’s conventions of how an upper class woman should behave.
There are a few missteps. From the first time she hears mention of an emperor, Karigan assumes it is Mornhavon, the villain from the previous books. So it is a nice surprise when she finds out who the emperor really is. So, it feels like cheating (and unnecessary) for the author to shoehorn Mornhavon in. There is a typically clichéd prophecy for what Karigan must do that even the character wonders why it could not have been more straightforward. And, although the Green Rider messenger service is long dead in this bleak future, she is able to acquire a descendent of the especially intelligent Green Rider horses, even if she has to disguise herself as a boy in order to ride. Still, these are small flaws that do not interfere with overall enjoyment of the book.
Mirror Sight is the fifth book in the Green Rider series but can be read as a stand alone time travel novel by readers unfamiliar with the series. Although not quite steampunk, and not a historical romance, fans of those subgenres will find much to like in this book. As for those readers who liked the previous books and did not want a change of pace, there are a few scenes set in Sacoridia in the time of King Zachary.
Having been somewhat disappointed in the previous Green Rider book, I am pleased to say that Mirror Sight has restored my interest in Kristen Britain's writing, although after seeing her vision of a more advanced time period than the usual one of the Green Rider series, I am more interested in seeing what she would do with a fresh canvass rather than the next volume of Karigan's adventures.