The Water Mirror: Dark Reflections, Book 1
by Kai Meyer, translated by Elizabeth D. Crawford
Published by Simon & Schuster
What do a blind orphan girl with mirrors for eyes, mermaids, Egyptians, flying stone lions, and urban Italy all have in common? Apparently nothing — until you pick up Kai Meyer’s The Water Mirror and begin floating with her down the canals of Venice. This first volume of a young-readers series, originally published in German, centers around Merle, a bold and curious orphan who begins an apprenticeship under the reclusive magic-mirror maker Arcimboldo. In the spirit of Pullman’s His Dark Materials, The Water Mirror‘s Venice exists in an alternate universe, where mermaids are raised in farms, stone lions guard the submerged city from imperious Egypt, and magic roams as freely as the flowing waters. And just like Pullman, Meyer leaves us waiting for the next book in the series. The author hints of great wonders — two expelled wizards whose aged towers lean uncomfortably close, gigantic underwater cities abandoned to the ravages of time — but she often gets caught up in relating this backstory, and long stretches of the narrative refer to events long ago, or are revealed rather awkwardly as conversations inside Merle’s mind. Nevertheless, The Water Mirror is imaginative enough to evoke wonder, and one hopes that with the scene now completely set, Meyer can open the floodgates of her creativity onto Venice with the next installment.
January 9, 2006 – Matthew Kressel (courtesy Earthling Magazine).