It hasn't really been that long since I read, and absolutely devoured, the first volume of Jodi Meadows' new duology, The Orphan Queen. When I left Wil, her burgeoning love interest (kind of; at least for one of his two personas) had just been targeted for assassination, and even if he lived, he was bound to marry another girl, and on top of all that Wil was confronting terrifying new dimensions to her powers. She brought to life part of the wraith threatening the Indigo Kingdom, but doesn't know what the consequences will be, other than that she's now the keeper of a very terrifying boy who's made of the very stuff destroying her world. It was a cliffhanger, of a sort, but one that I wasn't too concerned about because, you see, Tobiah/Black Knife is a Main Character, and, above that, a Love Interest, and that means he doesn't die halfway through a series, because Jodi Meadows is not George R. R. Martin. It was a cheap trick and one that I think didn't really hold up, but no matter, because the second volume is here at last. (Not really at last for me. I didn't have to wait that long.)
So, how does The Mirror King hold up to The Orphan Queen? Well... It's not as good. The Orphan Queen had some really amazing elements to it, many of which were spins on my favorite fantasy tropes, which is always a great combination! I mean, when something has all the things you like, it's hard to not like the thing itself; it's certainly possible, that's certain, but having all the things you like in one place is usually a good start. Unfortunately, I think that The Mirror King, by its very nature, lost its hold on some of the things that made The Orphan Queen so awesome. Secret identities, magical mysteries, and menacing monsters were all put aside in order to tackle the more political aspects of reclaiming a kingdom. Granted, there are undeniably political aspects to reclaiming a kingdom; they're unavoidable if you want to make the whole reclaiming process realistic. Wil has to struggle with her new responsibilities, but there's a growing rift between herself and Tobiah as the plot furthers, escalated by several events linked to Wil's powers and the wraith boy she actually created. As a result, the romantic tension that laced The Orphan Queen was also largely missing.
I think that, overall, The Mirror King moved much slower than its predecessor and there wasn't as much to really pull a reader in. I kept reading, because I wanted to know how it ended, but I was always looking for those intriguing elements and often not finding them. The scene in the cathedral was awesome, but other than that there wasn't much that I really loved until the climax, when a few of the threads built up really come together. They weren't compelling to follow individually, but I think that a revelation about one of the characters was very well done, as well as the direction that Meadows took it. It was a fantastic addition to the mythology of the world, and a way to have a poignant twist at the end without it being really gimmicky. I was heartbroken, because I was kind of hoping this character would have a spin-off series or something, but I totally support the ending because, despite my disappointment, it worked, and did so beautifully. The ending in general was very fitting for the book; let me tell you, as I neared the end I became very unsure that it was going to be possible to wrap up in a good manner, and I was afraid that the book would have a rather bleak conclusion. Instead, it was very satisfying, but still left enough open to the imagination so that you can play with how things ended up mentally.
Overall, a good book, but its strength definitely lies in its final part and its ending rather in the bulk of the story, which unfortunately focuses so much on politics and the machinations of the characters that it drags a bit--definitely more than its riveting predecessor.
3 stars out of 5.
This book also fulfills the category of "A book published in 2016" for my 2016 reading challenge.