By Catherine Fisher
Published by Hodder
ISBN 978 0 340 97008 9
Catherine Fisher's new novel begins with one of the most original and intriguing opening scenes in recent young adult fiction. A group of students at an expensive boarding school in Switzerland are rehearsing a fight scene for a production of Shakespeare's Hamlet. And things go badly wrong.
The school "bad boy" has taken the place of the main actor and, hidden behind a mask, he is armed with a real sword, not a dummy weapon. He violently attacks another student, panic ensues, and the rehearsal is stopped.
The drama teacher rips the mask off the imposter. It's the school's resident rebel, Jake Wilde, the book's central character, who openly admits he planned the attack to get expelled from the school.
Jake finally gets what he wants: he is sent packing to the home of his guardian, the explorer Oberon Venn. Jake's father, a close friend of Venn's, has mysteriously vanished and Jake firmly believes he has been murdered by Venn.
When Jake arrives at Venn's mansion, Wintercombe Abbey, deep in the English countryside, he is on a single-minded mission to discover the truth about his father's disappearance.
But the plot thickens when Jake actually meets the reclusive Venn. He discovers that the explorer owns a mirror made of obsidian, a black glass formed from volcanic lava. The mirror sometimes becomes a time portal, and it was through this that Jake's father was dragged to the past.
Jake wants to find his father and Venn wants to go back in time to stop the accident that killed his wife. So together, the pair establish a working truce to discover the true functionality of the bizarre looking glass.
The Obsidian Mirror is a slick, clever, thrilling fantasy, with a complicated but compelling plot.
A mysterious girl from the future, a changeling boy who lives in the woods that surround Wintercombe Abbey, and a faerie queen in love with Venn all add to the mystery Jake finds himself in.
Fisher has been writing for children and teenagers for many years, and it shows in the way she manages to keep such a tight grip on the varying strands of the plot. She makes the unbelievable believable, and is one of the classiest and most original authors currently writing young adult fantasy.
Fisher is a writer well worth seeking out, and her latest book is too good to miss.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com
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