‘A Mirror Mended’ by Alix E. Harrow: A villain by any other name

This Mirror Mended book review explores Alix E. Harrow’s second book in the Fractured Fables series, which ventures into Snow White’s territory.

When I first read A Spindle Splintered, I wasn’t entirely sure I knew what I was getting into. I was aware it was a novella about a multiverse of twisted fairytales, but I hadn’t read Alix E. Harrow before, and had no expectations for how it would turn out.

A Spindle Splintered ended up becoming one of my favorite books of 2021, and A Mirror Mended rose to the top of my TBR list. As soon as I had a chance to sink my teeth into Fractured Fables Book 2, I took it. And I was, once again, blown away.

We meet Zinnia a few months after Spindle takes place. She’s ignoring phone calls from Charm and hopping through universes, helping other versions of Sleeping Beauty get their happily ever after. She says she’s doing it for the betterment of the story, but everyone else knows she’s running away from something.

It’s all well and good until she gets pulled into a new story. You’d think she’d be used to that by now, but this isn’t the tale she’s grown so familiar with. No matter what world she enters, it’s always been some version of Sleeping Beauty, no matter how fractured and twisted.

This time, she ends up in the Evil Queen’s chambers. You know, the one from Snow White. Zinnia is equal parts thrilled and terrified. This is something new and exciting, but it’s also wickedly dangerous.

You see, Zinnia’s travels have started to break the multiverse, and the worlds are bleeding together. The Evil Queen happened upon a storybook that shows her exactly how her tale ends, and it’s not pretty. Now, she’s desperate to change her ending, and she’ll do anything to get Zinnia to help her.

First and foremost, Mirror has lost none of the spark we saw in Spindle. Zinnia is a snarky and sullen narrator who never fails to make me laugh. Whether it’s poignant pop culture references or her penchant for lampshading her own fairy tale, she’s always got the perfect comeback ready on the tip of her razor-sharp tongue and a healthy dose of nihilism to wash it down.

When I read an eBook, I might highlight one or possibly two lines in the entire novel if they really stick out to me. I’ve highlighted at least half a dozen passages in Mirror Mended, and it’s only 150 pages long. Zinnia is the type of person whose every thought I want to experience.

a mirror mended book review

It’s not just that these books are hilarious and snarky; they’re also viciously smart. These novellas feel like a treatise on feminism in fairy tales, mentioning their downfalls in the same breath as their triumphs. I’ve rarely read a piece of fiction as thought-provoking as it is entertaining. This truly is the perfect balance of both.

I love that this book focuses on a villain’s story. The Evil Queen doesn’t have a name or a backstory in Snow White’s tale, and none of us (or, at least, very few) have ever questioned that. She might not be a hero, but why exactly is she a villain?

Harrow tackles this question in more than one way, from the Evil Queen’s childhood traumas and choice to marry Snow White’s father, to what kind of marriage she had and the decision to put Snow White under a sleeping spell.

Much as it did in Spindle, Mirror plays around with the idea of choice and agency, but this time it’s from the other end of the spectrum. We’re not necessarily here to paint villains as victims, but Zinnia finds out how important it is to know the whole story. At the end of the day, you have to own your actions and choose to be a better version of yourself.

The other aspect that Mirror has in common with Spindle is that this is a queer story. I wasn’t about to leave behind this A Mirror Mended book review without mentioning that we see Charm and Prim again. Even more exciting, however, is Zinnia’s relationship with the Evil Queen and how it transforms over the course of the book.

I’ve seen some complaints lately about how the enemies-to-lovers trope is getting too soft, that it’s more like frenemies-to-lovers or rivals-to-lovers. Suffice it to say that when the Evil Queen and Zinnia first meet, the former is more than ready to harm or even kill the latter to get what she wants. The way that dynamic evolves in 150 pages is truly spectacular to witness.

If you’re looking for any critiques of this novella, you won’t find them in this A Mirror Mended book review. Even when Zinnia makes mistakes, even when the book gets dark, I enjoyed every second of the journey. Somehow, Harrow fit an action-packed plot, multiple character arcs, and a beautiful romance into a bite-sized package, and I never once felt like something was missing.

Then again, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t want more. A Mirror Mended is a satisfying ending to this duology, but I’m still sad to see Zinnia go. With so many more fairy tales to explore, Harrow has a rather blank canvas in front of her, and I have all the time in the world to explore the farthest edges of this universe.

‘A Mirror Mended’ hit store shelves on June 14, 2022

Buy A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow from Macmillan, Bookshop.org, Book Depository, or Amazon. You can also add it to your Goodreads list.

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