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The Water Mirror by Kai Meyer
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The Water Mirror (2001)

by Kai Meyer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Dark Reflections (1)

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6072124,461 (3.83)3
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English (18)  German (3)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
This is a lively and intriguing fantasy with orphaned girls, magic mirrors, mermaids and winged lions in a fantastical version of Venice under siege. ( )
  cindywho | May 27, 2019 |
I found the entire trilogy in a nearby Little Free Library and was intrigued. Unfortunately, this volume is a disappointment. I'm picky about world-building, and the world-building in this book is slapdash heading for chaotic. Venice! Magic! Egypt! Mermaids! Living stone lions! Hell! (No, really, Hell.) When the book started, I thought it would be about Merle and her new friend and fellow apprentice Junipa...and then suddenly Merle meets a certain boy and the plot becomes all about her and him and, yes, the female friend becomes a minor character. Meh. Since I have the second book in hand anyway, I'll try it and see if things even out, but I'm not optimistic. ( )
  Silvernfire | Dec 19, 2018 |
Venice has been under the protection of the Flowing Queen since she helped the citizens defeat the Egyptians.....now 3 of the City Councilors have turned traitor and are plotting so that the Egyptians might return victorious.

The canals are poisoned, the mermaids are dying. Merle, an orphan who carries the "Water Mirror" and with special talents is apprenticed to Arcimboldo the magic mirror maker. It is up to Merle, the Flowing Queen, and Vermithrax the Great Obsidian Lion to save Venice.

This was a very enjoyable read. The characters were believable and interesting. The action was smooth and held my interest. I am not going to give this a 4 because it is not as engaging as either "Harry Potter" or "Septimus Heap", but this was a good read, none-the-less. ( )
  Auntie-Nanuuq | Jan 18, 2016 |

I feel... like this book went an entirely different way by the end than it had been going towards the beginning. Honestly, I feel a little betrayed, although most people may not have the same reaction. The book started off really interesting and unusual, with two characters that were intelligent and became fast friends regardless of the oddities that they became part of. I admired both of them, Merle and Junipa, because these were girls that were willing to be friends with one another and give each other fair chances, regardless of the personality differences and resignations they had. It was a book that had its unique fantasy elements as well, with living and breathing stone lions, to mermaids that lived in the canals of Venice, our story's main stage, to a magical mirror maker that the two girls were apprenticed to.

Everything started off really intriguing and unique for a fantasy book. It had its own story to tell, and was woven with fascinating purpose and fun, haphazard interactions. Yet there was that sensation of lingering mystery and foreboding over the entire tale, like storm clouds on the horizon darkening the sky, but far enough away that you weren't certain if it would come your way at all or just blow off.

The side characters themselves were truly engaging as well, and I liked each of them for their own strange and beautiful, even sad reasons. Characters like Eft really tugged at my heart strings, and even the rambunctious boys working for Arcimboldo were good characters, if typical boys. *Grins crookedly* Serafin, too, as another main character--though we get to see less of him than Merle--really called to me with his dashing and yet mature personality, his thieving background and insatiable curiosity. Overall, the cast we have to work with was a fun one that brought out unique and enjoyable interactions and kept the book moving forward.


My issue with the book begins to arise when we get to meet a mythical entity called The Flowing Queen. She is apparently a being that has protected the city of Venice for countless decades as it lay under perpetual siege of the Egyptian empire, who to the current time in the book, still sits camped outside the city in a complete and total ring of troops. Meeting this being was at first interesting, but very soon I got a whiff of her mentality when she suggested using the forces of Hell (a real place that exists at the center of the earth in this book) to protect the city simply because she (for unspoken reasons) no longer could at that time.

It's a brave thing for any author to do, and I will not fault an author for wanting to introduce controversial elements into the book. Typically it'll result in a 50/50 split in the audiences: Those who don't mind the controversial elements and want to see what'll happen regardless; and those who will be offended and will stop reading the book because of this.

For a while after I finished this book, I was on the fence with this very decision. The Flowing Queen brought up the suggestion yet another time, and the author himself made a point of showing the consequences of making deals with Hell's representatives with a couple of characters throughout the book. At the very end, we get the prime example of how Hell and its Leaders think of the mortal beings with whom they bargain with. Without getting into spoilers, lets just say that the life of one of the characters I grew very attached to suddenly hangs in the balance, and the person who made this pact with Hell's leaders essentially seems to buckle under their demands--for obvious and good reason--to the point where not even guilt will stop him from sacrificing someone's innocent life. What really plays as the clincher is when he says, "Well, I took [this character] into my home because I was supposed to turn them over to Hell in the first place. Instead of giving them to Hell a few years from now, I'm going to have to give them over to them a lot sooner than I thought."


...yeah.


Then they try to sell you some bulls**t about "I was trying to help the children".


Well if you were trying to help the children, you would think with your talents or even just your bare bones and skin, you'd be able to make a living for them doing anything you had to instead of through A PACT WITH HELL WHERE YOU SACRIFICE INNOCENTS TO SAVE OTHER INNOCENTS.


Does NO ONE see the hypocrisy here?!


Whatever the book had going for it was essentially ruined for me with the way the book started to turn sour the further along towards the end it got. Even the introduction of another amazing character at the end chapters of the book wasn't enough to get the bitter taste out of my mouth, thinking about the characters I loved being sacrificed like animals. To be fair, the book gives signs of having a possibility of turning around in the next book in the series and not carrying through on these ideas, but by the time I finished reading this first book, I was stuck feeling sick to my stomach with the thought that I was possibly going to pick up the next book and have to read more of this treachery.

The worst part is that the very "being" of The Flowing Queen, who is supposed to be the savior of this story, is suggesting the people of Venice make a pact with the very Hell that we're sacrificing my babies to.

I'm sorry. I can stomach quite a few things, but this just crosses a line that disgusts me and which I find utterly revolting. And if I sound pompous: deal with it. I have standards, and killing off characters to make blood pacts with Hell so you can live a life that's a lie and contradiction isn't up my alley.


Honestly, I can't in good conscience recommend this book to anyone. It was ruined for me, and people will do what people want, but I won't commend it. It has too much outweighing the positive aspects right now. If I give the second book a try in the future, I'll let you know. Right now-- I recommend skipping it. ( )
  N.T.Embe | Dec 31, 2013 |
What I Liked. The spin Kai Meyer put on some familiar fantasy elements was fascinating. I love it when fantasy tropes are turned on their heads then flipped inside out. Otherwise beautiful mermaids, but with hideous shark like heads, are enslaved and used to pull gondolas through the canals of Venice. Those winged stone lions that today you see gracing the buildings, are alive, also enslaved and used as guards. Egyptians, not Romans, are the major invaders in this tale with their armies of undead mummies, flame throwing flying ships and powerful navy. And only thing that has saved Venice up to this point is the being know simply as the "Flowing Queen" who protects Venice's lagoon and prevents the Egyptian galleys from entering the waterways. And that barely scratches the surface. There are literally too many unique components to list.

What I didn't like. I am not sure if something was lost in the translation or if it was simply a matter of too much story and not enough character development, but I felt disconnected. I liked the orphans who are at the heart of this story but I never developed a sympathetic connection. Instead I felt more sympathy for the mythical entities. This may improve later on, now that the worldbuilding is covered, but it may not. I am struggling with the characters' motivation. It feels like the story is moving the characters instead of the characters moving the story. If that makes sense.

I also have my usual problem with the drop you off the edge of a cliff abrupt ending. Good thing I have the omnibus because otherwise, I'd be seriously frustrated.

Conclusion. I am on the fence so far. The uniqueness and creativity is priceless. If I was rendering an opinion based on the worldbuilding alone, I'd give it a five out of five. However, the portrayal of the characters could have been better. There were too many convenient scenes. Events consistently took place simply because the protagonists were in the right place (or wrong place depending on how you look at it) at just the right time.There is also the fact that there are so many storylines to keep track of. There is the lions' story, the mermaids' story, the orphans' stories, the Flowing Queen's story, Venice's story, the mirror maker's story, his housekeeper's story and a budding romance to keep track of. Deep breath... Never boring mind you, not with all of that going on, but a bit overwhelming at times.

For more detail please read full review @ Dragons, Heroes and Wizards. ( )
  Mulluane | Dec 17, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kai Meyerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Crawford, Elizabeth D.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The gondola carrying the two girls emerged from one of the side canals.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Kai Meyer's engaging fantasy portrays Venice as a city alive with wonder--stone lions pad with heavy paws on the canal banks and sometimes fly (as steeds for the Venetian Guard); the canals are full of mermaids with wide shark jaws, and the island city has been under siege by Egypt for 36 years. Only the power of The Flowing Queen, the mysterious spirit of the waters, has kept the city safe. But now the essence of the Queen has been stolen by traitors within the government, and the powers of Hell are offering a blood treaty. Two orphan girls, Merle, 14, and blind Junipa, 13, have become apprentices at the workshop of Arcimboldo, the maker of magic mirrors. He treats them kindly and restores gentle Junipa's sight by replacing her eyes with two round silvery bits of mirror. Merle soon emerges as the more adventurous of the two, and experienced fantasy readers are not surprised when she is given a quest to save the doomed city. American readers of this German bestseller will be reminded of Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord, by the intriguing mix of actual Venetian locations and a fantasy underworld, and also Neil Gaiman's Coraline, by the matter-of-fact acceptance of grotesqueries. In this unusually short (for fantasy) initial volume, Kai Meyer has planted enough backstory, hints, foreshadowings, and unanswered questions to fuel several sequels. (12 and up)
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In a place similar to Venice, Italy, two teenaged orphans, apprenticed to a maker of magic mirrors, begin to realize that their fates are tied to the magical protector of the city known as the Flowing Queen and to the ruler of Hell, respectively.

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