Fantasy is a genre that I definitely don't read as much of as I'd like. I read a lot as a teenager but nowadays I don't really have the time to embark on generally series that are often several books long, and so I tend to steer clear, but I'm really happy that I took the opportunity to review Monsters in the Mirror by A.J Hartley.
This book is the first in a trilogy in which Darwen Arkwright, a young English boy, moves to Atlanta to live with his aunt. He begins to see things that seemingly nobody else can see and it leads him to a mysterious old mirror shop, where he discovers that he can step through mirrors into different worlds.
I'm always a little bit unsure about fantasy series going in, as it's so easy for them to be overdone and repetitive but I found Monsters in the Mirror engaging from the first page. As far as first books in a series go, I want them to set things up nicely, introduce me to characters that I'm interested in and propel the story forward without giving so much away that I don't feel the need to read the second book, and this absolutely delivered on all counts. I loved the pace, which was fast without feeling overwhelming, so that I got immersed and sped through it, just wanting to find out what would happen next. It follows some familiar paths without becoming overly predictable, and I very much enjoyed feeling like I knew roughly where the story was heading without being able to work out all of the details.
A pretty stalwart trope of fantasy novels - especially fantasy aimed at kids, but equally prevalent in adult fantasy fiction - is a protagonist who discovers special powers or abilities during a turbulent time in their family or home life. Darwen has moved from Preston, England to Atlanta very suddenly for reasons that are revealed to some extent throughout the book, and as the story begins he's waiting to start his new school and trying to get to know his aunt, and generally going through a bit of a difficult time when he sees a strange winged creature in a shopping centre and falls into a very surreal, and potentially world altering series of events.
Of course the mirror world that he can travel into isn't one that's accessible to just anyone, and Monsters in the Mirror is a chosen one narrative of sorts, with Darwen's ability having an important role to play in the survival of several worlds. Along the way he picks up friends and accomplices, both in our world and the mirror world, and I can't wait to find out what happens next! A side note for people who love book covers as much as I do - this one has a super cool reflective inlay in it that I really loved.
If you've read this series I'd love to hear your thoughts on it - just leave a comment below!
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