Mirror the Mountain – Emma Ríos, Hwei Lim

mirror-the-mountainAnd on from Nod, I wanted to go onto something fairly quick, to get back some of the momentum I lost on it and The Book of Joan (which I’ve not finished and may well come back to shortly, we’ll see), neither of which I was super into. So a pretty graphic novel seemed very much the way to go.

And… well… it was pretty, I guess?

Mirror the Mountain is about an asteroid inhabited by humans and magic animals, but the asteroid itself is somehow conscious and involved in things. It’s a bit weird. And it is massively not helped by the fact the story is told non-linearly. I’m not against that, normally, but I think this is the worst example of it I’ve ever seen. You need to be able to get to grips with the pattern of the story at some point, if not immediately, to be able to follow what’s going on, and this… never gives you that. Each section is too short to give you a real sense of itself, and then you’re thrown into another bit of the timeline. And they helpfully give you in-universe dates for all the sections but… it’s really hard to remember whether the last chapter you read was before or after in random dating system. Even if you spot it at all (it is not the most obviously placed). So I just ended up really confused. I sort of knew what was happening by the very end, but I didn’t enjoy the process of getting there, because I spent way too much time flipping back and few pages and trying to figure out where we even were to spend the time I needed enjoying the story.

It also didn’t help that this gave me no time to enjoy any of the characters, and none of them shone out enough on their own to overcome that. I think the confusion frankly overrode all the other ways I’d normally measure a book, because I just didn’t get a chance to pay attention. Pacing? Lol what even is pacing? Because it only felt like it pulled together at the end, it felt like a huge rush of threads being resolved, where you’d not connected stuff properly beforehand so you’d not been able to get a clear sense of how events were progressing.

The only thing, then, that I get a clear shot at is the art. And it’s good – it’s pretty in a washed out sort of watercolour way – but it’s not pretty enough to carry a whole book. It’s not even in my top five of graphic novel art.

I feel like if it had been given more length, more patience, this could have been a lot better. Give each section space to let you understand when you are in the timeline, to establish itself, slow everything down and give the characters a chance to speak for themselves and shine, then maybe I could have really really enjoyed it, because the central ideas and themes felt worthwhile. I just never got a chance to appreciate them. It’s not promising enough that I’ll read a sequel, but I would not say no to reading more by the author/artist combo.

That being said, it was a quick read, confusion aside, and something I needed to keep the momentum going and drive me into my next book, so I appreciated that. There’s always something quite satisfying about being able to sit down and read the entire graphic novel in one sitting.

So a solid meh, but not one I am particularly miffed to have experienced. I gave it 3 stars, but definitely it’s a low 3, heading for the 2/3 border. It also suffers by contrast to my next book, Home Fire, which I’ve already finished and will try to blog shortly, which was AMAZING. I will be enthusing a lot about that one…

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About readerofelse

A student of a redundant, useless and thoroughly interesting subject and reader of many books, particularly fantasy, science fiction and plenty else besides.
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