Mirror: The Mountain by Emma Ríos and Hwei Lim. Image, 2016. 9781632158345.
Contains Mirror #1 – #5.
Before I get to the plot, I want to talk about Lim’s art. It’s soft, expressive, apparently done in watercolor. It contains an amazing amount of detail when needed and a lack of it when it’s unnecessary. And she colors outside of the lines! It has the perfect calmness for capturing this fairytale of mage scientists, love, and anthropomorphic animals on an alien world.
The plot: An asteroid’s magic shapes the animals there, making them more than they were — intelligent, and to different extents more human. There is a war underway between the animals and the human colonists, though some work for the humans — most prominently a rat named Zun and a ghost that looks like Sena (a dog), who is one of the animal leaders. Sena still loves Ivan, her friend (and clearly more) who became a talented mage scientist and is helping Kaz, who is trying to understand how the animals changed so that he can use the process to make soldiers.
Confusing? A bit. It jumps around in time. It’s less guns and bombs and more about a quiet, indirect, emotional conflict. At the heart of it is Kazbek, his “son” the minotaur Aldebaran, and Ivan, who continues to love Sena (who was, yes, at one point his dog) despite the fact that she once really hurt him.
I know this sounds disjointed, and it is, but the story really is beautiful, and it’s going to have a lot of appeal for readers who don’t normally go for science fiction. Many will pick it up because of the art and stay for the magic and its “lovers on the opposite sides of a war” aspect.
A glimpse of the minotaur got me reading it. I stuck around for the art. And then I reread it because it was so beautifully told, and I knew that rereading it would clarify the plot and deepen my understanding of the book (though even now it feels difficult to explain in a linear way). Good stuff.