The Missing of Clairdelune: The Mirror Visitor Book 2 by Christelle Dabos
Translated by Hildegarde Serle
One of the best books I read last year was a chunkster in translation – the first volume of four, no less. A political and dystopian, fantasy adventure, written with YA readers in mind, A Winter’s Promise was just under 500 pages of sheer delight, (read my full review here).
In the first volume, Dabos introduced us to a fractured world, broken into ‘Arks’ orbiting each other by an angry God. Each Ark’s families have particular magical talents. Ophelia from the Anima Ark is a reader; she can sense all about an object and its owners from handling it. She also has the rare talent of being a ‘mirror visitor’; she can pass through mirrors as long as she’s seen the mirror at her destination.
Ophelia has been promised in an arranged marriage to Thorn, of the Pole Ark, and travelled there with her aunt as chaperone, only to find herself a political pawn in a dangerous game of courtly intrigue, and her fiancé an aloof and man, treasurer to the court, whom she will never warm to. The first book finishes as she discovers why she was chosen.
As the second book opens, it is still weeks until her wedding. Soon, her family will be arriving for the festivities, and as much as Ophelia wants to see them, she is also dreading being smothered by her mother – well, just a little. Thorn is as enigmatic and elusive as ever. There are those factions on Pole that want to see Thorn’s downfall and prevent the marriage that will raise his family back into the nobility and in high favour with Pole’s ruling ‘ancestor’.
When people start going missing in Clairdelune, the citadel of Pole, including Archibald, one of Ophelia’s few allies, she is thrust into a new mystery, which again will threaten the upcoming nuptials. Ophelia will need all her skills, magical and intellectual to keep everyone safe, including Thorn – who continues to be a thorn in her side, but perhaps she is beginning to understand him a little.
It was a real pleasure to dive back into Dabos’s world. It may have been written with YA sensititivities in mind, but there is plenty of peril for Ophelia in these pages. That it is moreorless violence free and any sexual tension is a mere undercurrent is rather a plus! This allows the intricate plot to flower undistracted, and gives us room to learn more about Ophelia, her fiancé and the other main characters, as well as exploring the Ark in more detail. The Mirage family on Pole are master illusionists, Pole has a northern climate, but it feels like summer at the seaside in the citadel’s levels – all is illusion, something Ophelia must never forget.
As in the first book, there are occasional ‘Fragments’ between chapters in which we hear a little more, obliquely and tantalisingly about God who ‘was punished’. I’m sure these elements will start to make more sense as the series progresses. As before, Dabos packs her narrative with references and names from the bible, literature and myth – this time adding Cunegond from Candide, and a band of ladies known as the Valkryries amongst others, along with a whole sub-plot based on Scheherazade.
The Missing of Clairdelune more than met my expectations, again combining the elements of adventure and mystery with fascinating world-building. The plot is building up to be every bit as bonkers in a good way as G W Dahlqvist’s wonderful The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters (far less violent and racy of course, but the drug of choice in Citaceleste – blue sandglasses – does echo the glass books). The central will-they-won’t-they-actually-get-married plot is advanced interestingly and we grow to love Ophelia even more than we did during the first book. (10/10 again from me).
There is a brief summary of Book 1 at the beginning of Book 2, but you really wouldn’t want to miss out all the fun by not reading A Winter’s Promise first. Meanwhile, we’ll have to wait until next year for the third volume to be available in translation, and the final one will be published in France this November. The French cover of Book 3 is looking interesting (left) – more biblical references. I’m intrigued already!
Source: Review copy from Europa UK – thank you Daniela.
Christelle Dabos, translated by Hildegarde Serle, The Missing of Clairdelune (Europa Editions, 2019) Hardback, 540 pages.