~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp ~
Gregory Maguire’s 2003 novel, Mirror Mirror, is set in Tuscany, Italy, in the early 1500s. A beautiful girl named Bianca de Nevada lives with her father, Vicente, on an isolated hilltop estate called Montefiore. Bianca, a motherless girl, has lived a sheltered life and doesn’t know much of the world. Lucrezia Borgia, real-life daughter of Pope Alexander VI (the Borgia Pope), comes to Montefiore with her brother, Cesare Borgia. Lucrezia and her brother Cesare are both moved by Bianca in different ways: Cesare wants her for a sex toy, even though she is still a child, and Lucrezia is jealous of Bianca’s girlish beauty, which will soon be womanly beauty.
Lucrezia and Cesare decide they will stay at Montefiore for a while. Cesare is suffering from the French disease (we all know what that is). Cesare sends Bianca’s father on a (nearly) impossible quest (to get him out of the way) to find a fabled branch from the Tree of Life (you know, the one from the Garden of Eden), that still has three perfect apples attached to its branches. Bianca’s father doubts the branch with the apples on it even exists, but he has no other choice but to comply with Cesare’s commands. It might take him years to find it (if it even exists) and he might die in the effort.
With Bianca’s father on his quest, Bianca is left at Montefiore under the questionable care of Lucrezia Borgia, who just might do anything. Since Bianca has flowered into a lovely young woman and is no longer a child, Lucrezia is still jealous of her and has decided she will have her killed. She hires a young man to take Bianca into the woods and do away with her. The young man does as Lucrezia tells him to do, but he finds he is unable to kill her. He leaves her alone in the woods, making Lucrezia think he has done the deed.
Left alone in the woods, Bianca falls into a deep sleep that mimics death. Seven dwarfs (nothing like the Disney variety) find her and, believing she is dead, place her in a glass coffin and watch over her body. She will awake, though, and when she does she will go back to Montefiore. Her father, contrary to all expectations, has returned from his quest, bearing the ever-elusive branch from the Tree of Life.
Mirror Mirror blends elements of legend, history, fairy tale, and fantasy into an imaginative, lightning-speed novel. If you are an admirer of Gregory Maguire’s work (Wicked, Son of a Witch, Notes on a Cowardly Lion, Out of Oz, After Alice, etcetera.), you will find everything here that makes his work unlike anybody else’s. Highly recommended for connoisseurs of the different and unusual.
Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp