Read Through a Brazen Mirror by Delia Sherman Cortney Skinner Ellen Kushner Online


In a medieval kingdom both like and unlike 13th C. England, a mysterious young man appears at the door of the palace kitchen, seeing to serve the king. In a lonely stone tower, a woman watches the world through her mirror of bronze. The young king mourns the death of his friend in battle and and puts off choosing a bride. A child abandoned on a farmer’s doorstep grows up tIn a medieval kingdom both like and unlike 13th C. England, a mysterious young man appears at the door of the palace kitchen, seeing to serve the king. In a lonely stone tower, a woman watches the world through her mirror of bronze. The young king mourns the death of his friend in battle and and puts off choosing a bride. A child abandoned on a farmer’s doorstep grows up to be a powerful witch. The lives of these characters intersect and intertwine in strange and fateful ways as the young man rises from cook to steward to chamberlain and the king becomes more dependent upon him as the sorceress turns his country upside-down in her attempts to defy the fate her mirror has shown her....

Title : Through a Brazen Mirror
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781885865243
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Through a Brazen Mirror Reviews

  • ambyr
    2019-03-21 07:42

    As a portrait of Medieval English life, both noble and peasant, this is lovely. As a novel . . . it doesn't really work. It's based on a ballad and follows a ballad's fairy-tale logic, which means the characters' actions have virtually no effect on anything that occurs. That's driven by Fate. Which is a shame, because I think, if I'd spent more time with them in a more naturalistic setting, I would have quite liked the characters. My favorite bits were the glimpses of Bet's home life, the castle kitchen, and "William's" attempts to put the order of the castle to rights. I wanted more of that, and fewer ghosts and demons--and, most of all, I wanted to see inside "William's" head and understand the choices he was making.

  • Andrew
    2019-04-17 11:26

    Odd book, which I missed during its initial turn 'round the great fairy-tale wheel of the 80s. (The Minneapolis 80s, I almost said, but that's an overgeneralization.)The book is based on an obscure murder ballad -- rather, on a modern reconstruction of it. (The period ballad, "The Famous Flower of Serving-Men", doesn't have much of a plot.) William Flower, a nicely-turned-out young man of no declared birth, stumbles out of a storm into the King's castle, declaring that he's looking for a job.We then flip to the tower of a sorceress, Lady Margaret, who is arranging to have a household slaughtered by mercenary bandits. This turns out to be a flashback. (The book is plagued by poorly-marked flashbacks; I often had to chew through several pages before figuring out that somebody was the wrong age.) There is necromancy and kinslaying afoot, not to mention crossdressing, poorly-managed invasions, and the bitter disillusionment of teenage crushes.The storyline adheres to Martin Carthy's recording strictly, in its main points -- except for the ending, which goes for realistic awkwardness rather than fairy-tale pat. I wish more of the storyline had done that. The ballad plot beats feel forced, and the "real" plot is a lot of reaction and secondary characters dancing around while waiting for the big ballad climax. The big climax is not, in fact, a genre-fantasy battle between William and Margaret -- I'm not saying it should be -- but maybe *some* kind of conflict would have served the novel? William barely *does* anything.One could argue that this whole book is a slice-of-life portrayal of William in Cyngesbury, while in the background news reports roll in of Margaret slowly but surely shooting herself in the foot. Neither is particularly novelistic.Positives: the life that we see sliced is realistically medieval, as far as I can tell. I'm no expert, but it felt like period idiom, period points of view, and period dirty jokes. Also, no cheap fantasy-cliche (or romance-cliche) conflicts driving the plot. Negatives: as noted above, not much driving the plot at all.It's worth noting that Margaret, explicitly an Evil Witch (plots murder, spreads plague, summons demons from Hell, not a lot of ambiguity there), is not *treated* as evil in her half of the story. The narration follows her plaguing and murdering attempts with the same dispassionate focus as William's... well, William's attempts to run a kitchen and keep people from falling in love with him. (Really, that's his primary goal. You see why I keep squinting at the plot.) Anyhow, I was impressed by this narrative balance at first, but I eventually decided it wasn't *good* for anything; Margaret's foot winds up shot and that's the end. She is not even the heroine of her own story. Best I can say about it.

  • Nicole
    2019-04-14 12:46

    I may have been disappointed by this book because it was oversold to me as THE MOST GROUNDBREAKING WORK OF FANTASY EVAR. I think if it had been just positioned as an enjoyable retake on certain fantasy tropes I would have a more positive review. I found the characters somewhat two dimensional (and one verging into Mary Sue territory). The ending left me cold. I did like the magical system she drew up in the novel; it was clearly playing by a set of rules and I would have liked to have seen it expanded on further.

  • Catherine
    2019-04-17 08:38

    Fondly remembered fascinating retelling/reinterpretation of the traditional ballad "The Famous Flower of Serving Men."It's a book that has stayed with me for years after I read it. Recommended!

  • SuperCat
    2019-04-11 14:23

    I grabbed this book on Novemeber 30 when I was still reveling in the ecstacy of the end of National Novel Writing Month, and I just bought it at half price books because I only had to pay $1.50 for it. Also because I read The Fall of the Kings and liked it. This book, not so much. I had to go Wikipedia-ing because of my lamentable ignorance of middle age ballads (I had this feeling that the entire book was some sort of an inside joke I didn't get until the internet enlightened me) But that is not what killed the book for me. What killed the book was the ending, where the coolest character was killed and nobody got the guy or the girl. It was terribly depressing and when I was done I threw the book against the wall. Thumbs up for crossdressing. Thumbs down for stupid twist endings.

  • Mallory
    2019-03-19 12:45

    I love Lionel; he was hilarious. I feel bad for him, though, forever closeted and marrying a girl he doesn't love. But perhaps they can be friends. I feel really bad for Elinor, losing her husband and seven children, poor thing.A nice touch, I thought, was how there wasn't a standard alphabet. It's something you wouldn't think to do, but makes perfect sense for the time. Although I will say that the dialogue took me out of the story a little. I could understand what they said (and their was admittedly little dialogue at all), but it wasn't as smooth as the rest of the narrative.A bittersweet ending, a bit anticlimactic, but a thoroughly good read.

  • Kat
    2019-03-19 07:34

    I was excited about this book, which I read because it is based on an old English ballad, "The Famous Flower of Serving Men." I thought the characters were a little flat, or at least none of them engaged me. Some might be put off by the book's designation as "queer fantasy," (or at least by the ads in the back of one of the editions for queer erotic fantasy). However, I thought the predominant theme didn't have as much to do with gender, as it did with how people see what they want to see. Everyone sees the main character, a female masquerading as a male, as what they want to see.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-04-14 09:28

    A nice little alternative-universe gender-bendy fantasy in which no one gets a happy ending. I approve.The characterization is a little thin, and the main character, especially, is more opaque than s/he should be to truly win over the reader; the worldbuilding is excellent, clearly done by someone who has thought seriously about the medieval/Renaissance day-to-day experience; the system of magic is quite tidy and elegant.

  • Michalyn
    2019-04-05 08:20

    There was nothing wrong with this book per se, but I've never been much for gender benders and I guess in the end it just couldn't hold my interest. I love reading about strong female characters but sometimes I felt that the main character's opinions seemed a little too obviously modern instead of her being a strong woman who was still of her times. Who knows, maybe one day I'll try it again.

  • Wealhtheow
    2019-03-25 13:32

    An excellent novel all around. DS is one of the very few authors who can create a realistic and consistant medieval world. Issues of gender and sexuality are dealt with with the mores of the time, which are a bit different from our own. Her characters were all multi-faceted characters, none of whom understand themselves. Even the villain is sympathetic.

  • Readelf
    2019-04-06 11:38

    Have always loved the ballad this is based on and enjoyed the book enormously, although I found the deliberately archaic language a little heavy going in places. Clever ending and (slightly disagreeing with other reviewers) shrewd characterisation.

  • Jeff Youngstrom
    2019-03-26 14:20

    My review from March 5, 1998My review from February 6, 2005

  • Chris
    2019-04-13 12:18

    Quiet, but in a good way.

  • Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
    2019-04-16 06:33

    How bizarre/disconcerting/unfortunate ... I'm about 90% sure that I had a review of this before, or at least a rating.