title: Backward Glass
author: David Lomax
format: Kindle ARC
buy it: Amazon Goodreads B&N
rating: 4/5 [in the genre] or 7/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
recommended for: Fans of Relativity by Cristin Bishara, time travel, murder, and the eeriness of nursery rhymes.
My Ratings Explained
It's 1977, and Kenny Maxwell is dreading the move away from his friends. But then, behind the walls of his family's new falling-apart Victorian home, he finds something incredible--a mummified baby and a note: "Help me make it not happen, Kenny. Help me stop him."
Shortly afterwards, a beautiful girl named Luka shows up. She introduces Kenny to the backward glass, a mirror that allows them to travel through time. Meeting other "mirror kids" in the past and future is exciting, but there's also danger. The urban legend of Prince Harming, who kidnaps and kills children, is true--and he's hunting them. When Kenny gets stranded in the past, he must find the courage to answer a call for help, change the fate of a baby--and confront his own destiny.
the basicsDo you love nursery rhymes? Of course you don't, they're creepy as hell. Which is why they make the perfect backdrop for this eerie time travelling mystery that starts with a dead baby in the wall and ends with a startling revelation. Now, time travel can get janky, but Lomax does it well. You can only travel 10 years up or back. Only between the Mirror. Only Mirror Children can go. And nothing can change. Lomax does a damn good job of twisting together events and playing with the idea of the past and future depending on each other. It killed my brain but in a good, interesting way. The only problem was towards the end, where it got a little too confusing for me to hold onto the story. However, I got on board with the characters and stuck with them. I wished there had been more of the feisty Luka, but Kenny as a narrator really grew on me. His is a slightly naive, hopeful voice that gives perspective to the dark story. I won't soon forget this story.
plot . 4/5You start with a mummified baby in the wall and a note--Help me save him--so you know it's gonna get good. Then a girl falls out of Kenny's mirror, and suddenly we're racing through time searching for the nefarious Prince Harming with one purpose: stop the baby from dying. The problem? The rules of time travel say that you can't change the past. What's happened has already happened. That doesn't stop Kenny from trying. It's an exciting race between Kenny and the mirror children, who are convinced that Prince Harming killed the baby, vs Prince Harming, who's convinced that Kenny is going to murder his wife sometime in the past. What comes out is a thrilling mystery with complex threads and the kind of reveal that made me smack myself in the forehead. Lomax does a great job of working within the rules of time travel while still making a compelling story. The only rough part is when the threads all start to converge and I started to lose the story. Luckily, I picked it up in time for a very satisfying, open ending.
concept . 5/5Time travel can be done very, very poorly. Or it can be waved aside with wibbly wobbly timey wimey doublespeak if you're bold (and good) enough. Lomax finds the sweet spot and doesn't compromise on the rules. If you really think about all the pieces, they fit together in a way that makes almost complete sense with maybe one or two tiny little plot holes. Not easy to do when you're working with multiple timelines. It's also (mostly) not too complicated to follow along if you're not a quantum geek. Plus, adding in the mystery of the dead baby and the creepy nursery rhyme softens the sci-fi and pumps up the intrigue.
characters . 4/5Kenny annoyed me a lot at first. I'm not sure why. Rubbed me the wrong way. Was a little bit of a goody-goody. He grew on me quickly, particularly after the introduction of Luka. She brings out the more interesting side of him, that adventurous, capable side. Luka herself was fantastic and underutilized. Same with the other two girls, actually. We get the most of Rose, the baby's mother, and wild John. They're cool characters, especially John, but it would have been nice for the other girls to get more of the action. Especially Luka, who's a lot more dynamic than Kenny and disappears for half the book. However, it does help that in her absence, Kenny has to find himself rather than relying on her skill. I just think there could have been some fleshing out of the minors, especially the man who's ultimately Prince Harming.
style . 4/5Kenny's voice really sounds authentic. I harp on this a lot, but I lose interest when teen characters don't sound like teens. Kenny, however, hits the nail. I'm not so sure if his 70s slang is all well and proper (or if it differs enough from the slang of the mirror kids in other decades), but I'm also not an expert in the subject. What I really appreciated was Lomax's use of Middle English for the 1700s guy John. I'm much more familiar with that style, and he did a great job making it comprehensible enough but also obscure. In general, there were some really nice descriptions speckled throughout.
mechanics . 5/5This book was polished and paced well. Debut novels often drag for some unknown reason, but Lomax clearly knows how to speed you along. In fact, I might have even slowed down in a few places to give more time for character development. Or maybe not. I don't really have complaints here.
take home messageA thrilling murder mystery founded in time travel and nursery rhymes.
Note: I received this copy in exchange for review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.