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I am a girl who did something wrongWho is the fairest one of all
I am the other side of the snow
I am a mirror, a mirror am I
Mirror Mirror on the wall
Less-celebrated than Wicked or Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Gregory Maguire's Mirror, Mirror is a revisionist take on the tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (in case the title didn't tip you off).
Set in 16th Century Italy, the story centers around the circumstances surrounding the young Bianca de Nevada and her family's encounter with Lucrezia and Cesare Borgia, two children of the Borgia Pope. Bianca is the only daughter of recently-appointed Don Vincente de Nevada. A widower, Vincente keeps Bianca isolated from the small country town, where she grows up used to being alone. Their quiet life is ruined when the power-hungry Borgia siblings arrive on their doorstep. In exchange for his daughter's safety, Cesare Borgia forces Vincente off on a seemingly-impossible quest to recover a branch which purportedly still carries three of the apples from the Tree of Knowledge. Vincente reluctantly agrees, but quickly becomes the prisoner to the Apple branch's keepers.
Time passes, and with the death of the pope, the Borgia family loses most of its political power. Cesare's military career likewise fails and he himself becomes terminally ill. In a desperate grasp for a political alliance with the de Nevada family, he attempts to rape the eleven-year-old Bianca. Jealous that her brother desired another woman in his last days, Lucrezia arranges for the girl to be covertly murdered. However, the hired killer spares Bianca's life whereupon she falls into the domain of seven mysterious entities with power over earth and stone...
Mirror, Mirror Provides Examples Of:
- Anything That Moves: Neither Borgia is even remotely picky about who they take to bed.
- Bittersweet Ending: Best you can hope for from Gregory Maguire, really. Lucrezia and Cesare are dead, Don Vincente's still alive but fading fast, Primavera's literally lost her tongue, the dwarfs are all irrevocably mortal and Bianca's slept half her life. Oh, and her reunion with her dying pop is offscreen.
- Broken Bird: Bianca, naturally.
- Brother-Sister Incest: The only man Lucrezia truly seems to love is her brother Cesare. The mentally-impaired goose-boy is their child.
- Depraved Bisexual: Cesare boasts of his (offscreen) liasons with both men and women. But most men were bi then anyway...
- Dying Dream: Lucrezia has a Dying Nightmarish in her final chapter..
- Freudian Excuse: Cesare and Lucrezia didn't have much chance of normalcy from their upbringing... And mercury poisoning didn't help Lucrezia much either.
- Handsome Lech: Cesare and Lucrezia again.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: Oh, come on. Guess.
- Hive Mind: The dwarfs seem to have one. At first.
- Humanity Ensues: The dwarfs want to become human to adapt to a magic-free world. They get their wish. Unfortunately for them.
- Kick the Dog: The Borgias wrote the book.
- Little People Are Surreal: Lucrezia gets a monologue to this effect.
- The Magic Goes Away: Magic seems to be on its way out, and the dwarfs realize that they need to adjust quick or they're going with it.
- Monster Sob Story: Lucrezia isn't nice or especially likeable, but she's about as sympathetic as an amoral murderess can be.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Lucrezia. Justified since she's the Lucrezia who started it all.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Fra Ludovico survives Lucrezia's wrath exclusively for this.
- Parental Incest: Implied (but not confirmed) to have happened between Lucrezia and her father. Also occurs offscreen between Lucrezia and the gooseboy.
- Psychopathic Manchild: While not Ax Crazy, Lucrezia hasn't developed an adult sense of responsibility or human worth, seeing little wrong in drowning an illegitimate child or killing a girl she swore she'd protect.
- Reality Warper: It goes both ways with the dwarfs. While they can alter reality to suit their needs, human thoughts can also affect their very nature.
- Shown Their Work: Gregory Maguire did a decent bit of research for this book and kindly shares a bit of history in the back
- Unreliable Narrator: Shifts unexpectedly from First to Third person, from poetry to prose, from human diction to dwarf mentality. None of the voices are 100% accurate.
- Vain Sorceress: Averted. Lucrezia is plenty vain alright, but is in no way a sorceress.
- Villainous Incest: Lucrezia will take any man to her bed. Including her brother. And possibly her father.
- Yandere: Cesare tries to rape Bianca on his deathbed. Lucrezia does the reasonable thing and tries to kill her no less than four times...