The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath - Ishbelle Bee

The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath: From the Peculiar Adventures of John Lovehart, Esq., Volume 1 - Ishbelle Bee

I have no idea what that was all about.


It begins with Mirror, a fairly young child who was stuffed in a clock by her mad grandfather and rescued by the policeman Goliath, who can shapeshift and who later becomes her protector. Something happened to Mirror while she was in the clock, something supernatural, and Goliath is trying to find out what it was, visiting various mediums and other spiritual frauds.


But very little time is spent on this storyline: the book headhops chronically, getting progressively weirder as we see things from the point of view of a constable investigating a missing child case, a murderous 700-year old clock maker who steals the souls of children, the Lord of the Underworld, the wife of the Lord of the Underworld, and the Lord of the Underworld's son, and yes all of this sounds fabulous but you end up wondering if this was actually the best way to tell the story. The headhopping, and the non-chronological narrative that comes along with that, is just confusing as you try to work out what the fuck is going on and why you should care.


The setting is almost aggressively confused: as the cover suggests, it's vaguely steampunky, but the Victorian-ish setting is not very convincing and occasionally anachronistic. (You wouldn't, for example, be able to tell the title of a book from the front cover, as one character appears to do at one point.) Which is a problem, because the book's going for a Neil Gaiman-y adult fairytale vibe (I can tell this because it says "Perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman!" on the back) and one thing that Gaiman's books are quite good at is establishing a sense of place, and, more importantly, the magical rules which govern it, without which all fairy tales descend into chaos, as this book does. Lyrical and whimsical gets very, very tiresome after a while if there's no depth to the story.


There's a really icky bit at the end when

Mirror gets aged by magic and becomes Goliath's wife, which, wasn't he supposed to be like a father figure? Ugh, ugh, ugh.

(show spoiler)


And the book doesn't manage to shake off steampunk's colonialist aspects: it exoticises Egypt pretty severely, with talk of magical Egyptian princesses who can stop time and all the magical stars they have in Egypt and excavating Egyptian tombs and no actual interest in Egypt as a real, living place.


So, yes: I don't think this book really achieved what it was trying to do. Whatever that was.