Shadow Mirror: YA ghost story with realistic relationships

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsYA fantasy book reviews Richie Tankersley Cusick Shadow MirrorShadow Mirror by Richie Tankersley Cusick

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love a good ghost story. I don’t love it when a book isn’t clearly marked as a sequel. However, that is the fault of neither Shadow Mirror nor Richie Tankersley Cusick, so I’ll let it slide. Just know you’ll want to read Walk of the Spirits first, if you’re interested in Shadow Mirror.

Miranda Barnes has the ability to hear and see the dead. Lately she’s been seeing the ghostly reflection of a woman whenever she looks in a mirror. These visions worsen after a visit to Belle Chandelle, a nearby plantation house that her aunt and mother are renovating into a bed and breakfast. With the help of her friends — including sexy and mysterious Etienne — she works to solve the mystery behind the haunting of Belle Chandelle.

Despite being a sequel, Shadow Mirror stands on its own really well. Aside from a few small missing details, it was very easy to slip into the story. Cusick’s fantastic characters smooth the way. I would have liked just a little more personality out of Miranda, but she’s a very likeable and relatable character. Her internal struggles — both with her ability to see ghosts, and her double crush on Etienne and Gage — ring true. They feel like real teenage problems (which is impressive in the case of the former) and while they have a great deal of importance in her life, they’re never melodramatic.

In fact, somehow Cusick depicts very complex relationships and friendships within Miranda’s sphere of friends without ever making them unbelievable. There’s the sort of love triangle going on between Miranda, Etienne, and Gage, the question of old relationship vs. potential new relationship for Miranda’s friend Ashley, and the issue of Miranda and Etienne having sex for the first time. All of it is handled with great skill and taste. Better yet, nobody but nobody is a walking stereotype. For example, despite being a popular cheerleader, Ashley is a very sweet girl who you can bet would never spend her time tormenting outcasts. If you’re frustrated with some of the relationship trends in YA these days, you might want to give Shadow Mirror a try just for that.

The ghost story plot itself turns out to be pretty simple, and actually I really appreciated that. With southern ghost stories, especially those that take place on plantations, there’s a tendency to tread the same old ground and be really predictable. The nature of the mystery here meant I wasn’t way ahead of the characters in solving it.

Cusick’s writing is interesting. She uses a fair amount of dashes, italics, ellipses, and other similar tricks, but usually only when describing Miranda’s “haunting.” So the effect is generally a good one, giving a strong feeling of Miranda’s disorientation and the way her world fragments when this is going on.

Unfortunately this leaks over into other places occasionally, meaning sometimes the prose gets a little frustrating. As well, the strength of the friendship between Miranda and her friends has its own frustrations if you haven’t read the first book. I got a very strong sense of their background together – and was occasionally irritated that I hadn’t read Walk of the Spirits. Especially since I was missing little details that I desperately wanted to know.

I enjoyed Shadow Mirror a great deal and hope Cusick writes another story about Miranda. Ghosts aside, I actually really want to know what happens next in the lives of Miranda and her friends. And I don’t say that very often about fictional people. In the meantime, I’ve ordered Walk of the Spirits and another book by Cusick. Now if only shipping to Sweden didn’t take so gosh darn long!


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BETH JOHNSON, one of our guest reviewers, discovered fantasy books at age nine, when a love of horses spurred her to pick up Bruce Coville’s Into the Land of the Unicorns. Beth lives in Sweden with her husband. She writes short stories and has been working on a novel.

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