Author: M.J. Putney
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: March 1, 2011
Series: Dark Mirror #1
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
As the youngest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Fairmount, Lady Victoria "Tory" Mansfield is destined for a charmed life of status and wealth. The envy of many young girls, Tory knows she is lucky which is why she goes to great lengths to hide her special talent...magic. If her powers were exposed, it could strip her of her position and disgrace her family forever. Which is exactly what happens when a shocking accident forces Tory to reveal her magic, and she is immediately exiled to Lackland Abbey, a reform school for other young men and women in her unique position.
What lies ahead is a strange and wonderful world where Tory will learn that it is not her social standing or her family's wealth, but destiny and magic, true love and friendship, and courage and strength that determine her real worth as a young woman.
But once she arrives at the school, things really pick up. The magic system is interesting and the characters are enjoyable but do tend to fall a little flat at times. Tory is sympathetic and smart. Her interactions with her roommate, Cynthia, are particularly amusing. The relationship between Tory and her love interest does fall somewhat flat. This is in part due to the formalities and restraint of the time period, but also just poor relationship development where the romance is concerned.
Lackland is a place where the children are sent in order to be stripped of their magic, but Tory finds that there are some who would prefer to train their magic and use their abilities for good.
The plot is actually an alternate history with time travel. It is set in England in 1803, and the mages feel that Napoleon is a threat and that they must be ready to use their magic for defense should France attack. The time travel element takes Tory to the 1940's, into a WWII England in which Hitler is conquering Europe, and there is again the threat of war coming into England. Hitler is pushing through France, and England is already involved in the war, so this time the threat is more immediate and certain.
I found the alternate history aspect of it to be a pleasant surprise and liked the direction that the novel took with the mages and wars. I do wish that there had been a little better character development, though. The romance, in particular, fell pretty flat for me.
This novel is the first in a series. But it does have a fulfilling resolution and doesn't leave the reader with a lot of questions, so it could also work well as a standalone for those who aren't interested in getting hooked into another series. The story does, however, leave some hints and some minor (to this story) unfinished business which, while it doesn't leave the reader feeling as though something were left out, does leave some interesting places for this series to go in future installments.