Monday, September 18, 2023

A Mirror Mended (Fractured Fables #2), by Alix E. Harrow

Tordotcom, ISBN 9781250766656, June 2022

Zinnia Gray is five years into her accidental career as a fairy tale fixer. Well, Sleeping Beauty tale fixer.

And she's getting kind of sick of it. The "happy ending" weddings at the end are wearing on her. Why can't some of these princesses solve their own problems?

She's also feeling like a bit of a third wheel, in the apartment she shares with her very first "happy ending," Charm and Primrose. Although, it should be noted, Charm and Prim seem to think this particular third wheel is entirely appropriate.

Planning to cut out early from the latest wedding she's attending, a beautiful, malevolent face looks out at her, a hand reaches for her--and pulls her into a different, and darker, fairy tale. This is the Evil Queen from Snow White.

The Evil Queen has learned the ending to her own story, and wants Zinnia to get her out of this crappy story. She wants a different ending, that doesn't involve red-hot, iron dancing shoes.

The Evil Queen has her own backstory, too. She's been the unwanted stepsister; the young queen who didn't produce an heir; the widowed, foreign queen unloved by her subjects--and threatened by the beautiful, young step daughter who was starting to attract foreign princes. She's not a nice person, but she didn't get that way without help.

There's also another problem, though, a problem of a breakdown of the stability of the multiverse. What is causing that breakdown? Oh, right, Zinnia traveling through the universe, making major changes in it. Barriers are thinning, stories are starting to mix together, and the whole, increasingly unstable structure is starting to come apart. Zinnia has to stop traveling.

But the Evil Queen's enemies come for them, and Zinnia only knows one way out. Soon they're fleeing through one version after another of the Snow White tale. This doesn't really help either of them, especially when they find themselves in an especially horror-flavored version.

Zinnia and the Evil Queen, whom Zinnia decides to call Eva when she realizes she has no name, are forced to actually talk to each other. To get to know each other. To actually analyze their problems, and what they want.

They both learn, they both grow.

What they get isn't a traditional happy ending.

Another worthy Hugo Finalist.

I received this book as part of the 2023 Hugo Voters Packet.

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