Book Review

The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf by Tia Nevitt

B, None

Title: The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf
Author: Tia Nevitt
Publication Info: Carina Press 2013
ISBN: 978-14268-9510-4
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Book The Magic Mirror and the 7th Dwarf, a dude looking through a mirror with a book and a blue hazy landscape beneath The Magic Mirror is a lovely, unusual romance loosely based on the fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.  It is creative, tender, and lyrical.  What it lacks in grand passion it makes up for in the maturity displayed by its characters.

Magic Mirror deals with several stories that overlap.  In one, Gretchen, a dwarf with average-sized parents, hears a story of a farm where several dwarfs live and work together.  Tired of the ridicule and loneliness she experiences in her village, she travels to the farm in hopes of finding a husband.  Lars, the son of dwarfs who worked as Court jesters, also heads to the farm in hopes of finding a community.  Meanwhile, the local princess, Angelika, periodically takes refuge with the dwarfs, because she is hounded by her evil stepmother (the Queen) at home. 

While all this is going on, Prince Richard wanders the kingdom, bitterly ruing the day that he became the “slave of the mirror”, cursed to truthfully answer question posed by the owner of the mirror (who is, you guessed it, the evil stepmother).   Of course all these plot threads end up coming together, which causes all kinds of plot stuff to take place.

This was a very well told story that felt longer than it was (in a good way – it felt detailed and relaxed, not draggy).  The use of characters was creative and I found that I cared very much about all of them.  The plot was fun and exciting, the use of language was expert, and there were a lot of details that really made it rise above the usual novella fare.  For instance, the various plays on the theme of waking a sleeping princess with a kiss were clever, and the tricks the characters used to try to seize control of the mirror were interesting.  I liked the setting – it felt very much like a European fairy tale setting, and yet it had a lot of realistic touches that kept things grounded.

One thing I appreciated was that the dwarfs are described respectfully, as people, not as comic fodder.  Several different types of dwarfism are described but no one is seen as physically repellent.  They have their own stories, and those stories are given as much, if not more, time as the stories of the average height characters.

I also liked the relationships between women.  Gretchen has a warm relationship with both of her parents and quickly discovers a mentor in Marta, the farm's matriarch.  Her initial meeting with Angelika leaves her feeling envious, but with some prodding from Marta she and Angelika develop a close friendship.  Getting to know Angelika forces Gretchen to confront her less positive characteristics (mainly envy) and Angelika brings out a lighter, funnier side in Gretchen.  Their girl talk is just fun to eavesdrop on.

This is a satisfying romance, but readers should be forewarned that it isn't a very passionate one.  Gretchen and Angelika both assume they will marry for pragmatic reasons, and both realize that they want to marry for love.  They each have a hard time recognizing love when they feel it because they are so afraid that they are confusing love with convenience.  Gretchen and Angelika are much too cautious to be madly swept away, and so are their partners, but that almost makes their romances more poignant.  If you are looking for an explicit book, look elsewhere, because in this one the sex scenes are very much of the “fade to black” variety.  The relationships are, however, very tender and touching.

I have a big weakness for revisionist fairy tales and this is one of my favorites.  It's a nice, subtle romance with not one but several fresh twists!


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Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Vasha says:

    This sounds perfect. I’ve been reading something emotionally harrowing (“Amok” and other stories by Stefan Zweig—excellent but OMG intense) and need an upbeat break.

  2. 2
    Anne says:

    I really enjoyed this one, too!  I hope this author writes more fairytale retellings.  Her first one based on Sleeping Beauty, The Sevenfold Spell, was clever but not romance-y enough for me.  This one really has a great balance between the romance and the story.

  3. 3

    This sounds really good. I’ll have to give it a try

  4. 4
    Laura says:

    I love revisionist fairy tales, too.  I’ll have to read this one!

  5. 5
    Julie says:

    I LOVED Tia’s Sevenfold Spell. Another wonderful fairytale retelling. I already have this one my TBR pile. Her stories are so clever and a joy to read!

  6. 6
    Charon says:

    If you like good fairytale reimaginings and don’t mind if they’re lesbian rather than straight, I’d recommend Sarah and Jennifer Deimer’s Sappho’s Fables. These are novellas, and I prefer to call them reimaginings rather than retellings because they are so different from the originals. One of them, Crumbs, is currently free for kindle from Amazon. I think all three have HEAs (don’t remember for sure), but not all Sarah Deimer’s stories do (e.g., several of the short stories in Love Devours). She doesn’t shy away from dark, but these are somewhat YA, so don’t expect hot and heavy sexy times.
    The Dark Wife
    is also excellent, a short novel length redone Persephone myth.

  7. 7
    Violet Bick says:

    “Several different types of dwarfism are described but no one is seen as physically repellent.”

    I am confused by the word choice in this sentence of your review. How is “dwarfism” associated with “physically repellent” such that the opposite needs to be pointed out?

  8. 8
    CarrieS says:

    Often in our society, as well as the society of the book, people with dwarfism are stereotyped as being evil, comical, or ugly.  I hope my phrasing didn’t indicate that I endorse those views!  I appreciated how the author described several of the characters as physically attractive, and how they were all fully realized characters, not caricatures, and how they struggled against the views that the mainstream society had of them.

  9. 9
    Emma Barron says:

    I’m very much into revisionist fairy tales right now (my first novella is a retelling of the rumpelstiltskin story) so I’m excited to check this out.

  10. 10
    LovelloftheWolves says:

    Read it all in one night (so… two hours?) I was surprised at how short it was, though. Not to say it wasn’t good, it was exactly what I needed. But the whole relationship between The Princess and The Prince felt… a bit contrived really.

  11. 11
    Vasha says:

    Well… it is definitely part of the Princess Classic standard that Ange is SO good, generous, sweet, and kind that everyone—all her subjects, friends, husband—has to love her. But it ties right into the theme of the book that Prince Richard says he loves her for her goodness not her beauty, says that there are thousands of other beautiful women but she’s “the fairest in the land” to him, and it’s supposed to be a sign of his new maturity that he no longer appreciates Sybelle’s spectacular beauty. And Lars says that Gretchen is the fairest in the land. Which is the conversation that Ange and Gretchen had. Ange: “A man who wants you only for your beauty is not a man worthy of respect.” Bridget: “What if he loves you for your beauty, but only thinks you are beautiful because of his love?”

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