The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King and a Pickpocket Squirrel by Susan Hill Long
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Magic Mirror, by Susan Hill Long, is written in a style that makes me think of Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, if it had been written for children. This is a questing tale full of mystery, villainy, comedy, piety, and mistaken identity.
Maggie the Crutch, a crippled, foundling girl has been raised by Minka, a widowed ale-brewer, and has no idea of her parentage or history. She knows only that she was found in a church, as a small child, wearing a velvet green dress, and with an irrevocably damaged leg.
Maggie is raised with clothes on her back and food in her belly but not an abundance of love and affection. Minka isn't cruel but she isn't loving either. Minka is selfish and stern and overly practical. When Minka tells Maggie that she has promised her to marry a hunchbacked wool-monger, Maggie is distraught.
In town, while running her errands, Maggie meets a merchant named Bilious. Bilious tries to interest Maggie in some items and shows her a mirror that allows the viewer to behold their heart's desire. In this mirror, Maggie sees a wild-eyed old man, and Maggie just knows this man is the key to her destiny. She decides to journey towards this destiny and away from her fate as a wool-mongers wife. She abandons her life with Minka in the night, and stows away on a cart traveling West.
Maggie's quest introduces her to a cast of interesting characters. She meets a dangerous thief and his men, a monk and his bag-pipe playing nephew, a princess and her controlling father, a pick-pocketing squirrel and a mysterious street urchin. Through pure serendipity, each person Maggie encounters has played a role in the mystery of her destiny. But so many questions remain unanswered until the very end...
Who is the wild-eyed man? Why does she feel so called to him? What is her true identity? It seems that only the Magic Mirror knows.
This is a fun tale told in a medieval world of suspicion and schemes. Though slow-moving at first, The Magic Mirror is a delightful story which will appeal to a wide audience.