Title: Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror
Series: Records of the Ohanzee
Author: Rachel R. Smith
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Publication Date: May 10, 2015
Publisher: Rachel R. Smith
I received this book for free from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.
Hundreds of years ago, after the fall of civilization, King Gared united the land of Renatus. The kingdom remained one until after his death, when his great-great-grandchildren were born. Unable to choose an heir, their father split Renatus into two nations, Chyio and Marise, giving one to each.
Time passed and the blood bond between the nations faded, each country flourishing but at the same time becoming more dissimilar. The ties were furthered weakened, when twenty years ago King Casimer of Marise staged an unsuccessful assassination attempt on the royal family of Chiyo.
Now, in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the thwarted attempt, Chiyo’s royal family is hosting a masquerade ball.
In her preparation, Nerissa, the Heiress of Chiyo, arranges to secretly switch costumes halfway through the ball—so she’s able to enjoy the night without a title hanging over her head. But when the evening finally comes, splendor and revelry turn to violence as a second and (somewhat) successful assassination takes place. Nerissa is unidentifiable in her costume, and pulled from the rubble by a mysterious guardian.
With Chiyo now in the hands of King Casimer, Nerissa is forced into hiding. But her time away does her well, and with a new identity she sets out to piece together a prophecy that might just save all of Renatus.
What first drew me to Rachel R. Smith’s Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror was the cover. I mean it’s just beautiful, very reminiscent of The Selection series for me. Besides that, I just love a good princess-esque book.
That being said, I had a bit of trouble getting into the book at first. You don’t get a lot of background or world building in the first couple chapters—for that I suggest first reading the prologue which is actually optional and located at the end of the novel.
Besides that, the point of view jumps around a lot. The story is told in third person but switches among multiple characters such as Nerissa, Rian, Shae, and Einar. The changes aren’t necessarily indicated by a new chapter or heading, so you just kind of have to adapt and get used to it.
The pacing is also kind of slow. There’s no action until the attack on the ball, which doesn’t happen until about fifty pages in. But if you’re patient, the rest of the novel is great and completely hooked me.
I really enjoyed Nerissa as a character. Even though the book switches POV she’s the clear protagonist. Throughout the book she’s never whiney or mopey, even though she has plenty of reasons to be. Her thirst for knowledge and level headedness was refreshing. She knows that it’d be stupid to rush a revolt, and is constantly thinking about her people’s safety. So she fearlessly sets out to reveal an ancient prophecy that could possibly save Renatus.
The supporting characters were also fun to read. Rian definitely has a secret, Ildiko is a sweetheart, Einar is a strong father figure, and Raysel acts as a guardian.
I liked that Smith added fantasy elements to the story, such as the crystals and prophecies. It really separated the story from other reclaiming-the-kingdom ones I’ve read. The overarching prophecy of the story also just really gave me something to think about and try to puzzle out.
If you’re looking for romance, it’s kind of there. Initially Nerissa and Rian meet at the ball, flirting ensues but due to the masquerade nature of their costumes their identities remain hidden. Other complications ensue; Nerissa doesn’t remember the attack let alone meeting Rian, and in order to protect her identity she assumes the name Caeneus and disguises herself as a man.
So while nothing happens romance-wise in Stranger in the Mirror, it seems to be hinted at for future books in the series. There are going to be four books in the Reflection arc, the first two are currently available with the third Reflection: Thorn of the White Rose due out in spring 2016. The books are told in a serialized style, meaning the story line flows continuously from book to book. This means there’s not really the traditional structure of rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion. Really, The Stranger in the Mirror just feels like the beginning of a bigger work.
Now I just need to get my hands on the second book, Reflection: Harbinger of the Phoenix.
You can find Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror on Amazon and the author Rachel R. Smith on her blog recordsoftheohanzee.com. Plus, check here for an excerpt. Give it a read and let me know what you think in the comments. Plus leave recommendations for my next book!