With The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Stephen R. Donaldson changed the face of fantasy fiction forever. In The Mirror of Her Dreams, the astonishing first novel in the two-volume Mordant’s Need series, Donaldson shows us a world of wondrous beauty and seductive illusion, where mirrors hold the deadliest of magics and nothing is what it seems.
The daughter of rich but neglectful parents, Terisa Morgan lives alone in a New York City apartment, a young woman who has grown to doubt her own existence. Surrounded by the flat reassurance of mirrors, she leads an unfulfilled life - until the night a strange man named Geraden comes crashing through one of her mirrors, on a quest to find a champion to save his kingdom of Mordant from a pervasive evil that threatens the land. Terisa is no champion. She wields neither magic nor power. And yet, much to her own surprise, when Geraden begs her to come back with him, she agrees.
Now, in a culture where women are little more than the playthings of powerful men, in a castle honeycombed with secret passages and clever traps, in a kingdom threatened from without and within by enemies able to appear and vanish out of thin air, Terisa must become more than the pale reflection of a person. For the way back to Earth is closed to her. And the enemies of Mordant will stop at nothing to see her dead.
©1986 Stephen R. Donaldson (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
I'm listening to "Mirror of Her Dreams" (for the second time) while writing this review. I love it so much that I want to listen to it until I have pieces of it memorized. Those familiar with Brick's readings of the "Covenant" series will understand why. For those who aren't familiar with those recordings, I'll try to explain...
Scott Brick is often an understated narrator (as at least one other reviewer has noted, though calling his voice or this reading boring is grossly inaccurate), but he is always, *always* committed to the story, the characters and (first and most importantly) the words. He's an ideal reader for any book with a strong emphasis on character development because his style is nuanced and complex, marked by small changes in tone instead of histrionics. That's not to say that he isn't capable of a nice loud bellow every once in a while, but (again) only when the text calls for it.
"The Mirror of Her Dreams" and its sequel, "A Man Rides Through," collectively called "Mordant's Need," is one of Donaldson's more peripheral works, a status that it deserves in a superficial way. It's more conventional (plot-wise) than either "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" (all three) and the Gap series. But its ideas, particularly regarding reality and identity, are as complex as anything in those two series--as complex as anything in Donaldson's oeuvre. But it takes a while to get to those ideas. You'll listen to about an hour of this audiobook before the plot *really* gets going, but after that it's a joy on multiple levels: for its story, intellectually, and for its truly stellar characters.
One character in particular may be responsible for Mordant's Need's (relative) unpopularity: Terisa Morgan. She's the primary viewpoint character and for the first volume (this one) she does some fairly unlikable things and behaves in very frustrating ways. She struggles with her own existence and allows other (obviously bad) people to manipulate her into harming other (much better) characters. Some (in Amazon.com reviews) have called it a sexist portrayal but this is untrue. Terisa does forge her own identity in the end, but (unfortunately) most of that happens in the second book. For this one, you'll have to content yourself with the loyal-but-accident-prone Geraden, the old dodder and his dastard, King Joyse and Adept Havelock, the hilarious Tor, the dreamy idealistic Myste...I could go on, but you get the idea. Every character in Mordant (the story's fantasy world) is either lovable or fascinating--occasionally both. Even the villain is well and compellingly drawn--a character who likes causing havoc just for the sake of it sometimes, but who is also a devious, careful planner.
The "Mordant's Need" books really aren't like anything else. One might compare them to those fantasy/romance novels on the shelf based on pieces of their plot, but that comparison would be unfair: these are far better. "The Mirror of Her Dreams" resembles, in its intricacy and detailed world, historical fiction; its plot is suspenseful and full of intrigue, though it starts slow; and the characters are all realistically and sympathetically drawn, even characters that other authors would make you dislike.
My favorite scene (in this volume, at least) is probably the one between Terisa, Master Eremis and Geraden--when Geraden keeps *cough* "interrupting" the other two. It is not a scene I can read in public; I laugh far too much. Scott Brick's reading of this scene is also dead-on convincing; I could see the characters voicing the words (in his tone) in my head.
A close second has to be Terisa's last conversation with Myste. This scene is a turning point of the story, but I think a lot of people miss its significance (when reading) because it is comparatively quiet in terms of action. Again, it's read perfectly here, and Myste (already a compelling character on paper) fairly pops out of the page, her faraway gaze coming into focus at least for a moment.
Also, I love all the scenes with Adept Havelock. This book is full of fantastic scenes--and it is also better than the sum of its parts.
There is a point in this book when a 20+-ton wall/ceiling falls in on a (very much beloved) character. The pages that follow are incredibly moving, though not for the reasons that you'd think.
This audiobook is already making me excited for the day when Scott Brick reads Donaldson's "Gap" series. I can't wait!
Love to Read!! Everything
It has a theme of Romance running thru...it is about a young woman who finally discovers who she is.
The plot....the way Donaldson draws you in to a new world and the intricate plots and twists.
He did a great job..
When King Joyce finally admited what he had done...why he had done it...and the pain and joy actually made me cry at the moment. (oops...second book) Ok on this one....The heartbreak.... the way Teresa made a choice to be loyal...to follow and TRUST the one person who had been by her side. Everyone one else at this point had left her...as it had all of her life...
This is a two book series. You must get the other one....This was well worth the credit paid...Very much so...and the speaker...great!!
Stephen R. Donaldson is an interesting author. I generally have to read his books with a dictionary beside me. I suppose this story would be labelled a fantasy. It takes a while to build and the young characters are quite immature from the beginning and so indecisive. By the end of the Mordant's Need, however, you are anxiously ready for the second part.
I totally wanted to smash the main character's head into a wall. Seriously. She was so ... so .... insipid. She had a bit of thought process to her -- in fact, that was all she had since she was sort of the female version of Hamlet, always whimpering over what she should do and not taking any action -- so I can't call her vapid.
She was "Aargh!"-worthy.
I liked the world. I liked the setting. But her inability to take action frustrated to the point that I just didn't like the book.
Likes to listen while doing chores; likes to write reviews while he should be doing chores.
Some will probably fault this critique because they'll say that all my complaints are reversed in the second book and shame on me for not having the faith to drop a another credit on it. Sorry, he had 22 hours to pique my interest and give me a reason. I'm not going to throw good credits after bad.
This is a bad audiobook. Do not buy it. If you somehow come to it for free, do not listen to it.
Why is it bad? The characters are bad. I know many readers may have come here from some piece of Thomas Covenant. I read those books many years ago, and although they weren't my favorite, I did like them. I know it is Donaldson's shtick to have a mentally or physically damaged protagonist. Fine. This protagonist has nothing but her damages, and she doesn't experience any development or growth. She ends the book the same milquetoast, weak-willed, ineffectual, submissive "heroine" she is at the beginning. Oh there are three scenes where she "defies" powerful men (mostly by lying to them), but most of the narrative of those scenes are given over to how she is on the edge of insanity, narrowly keeping herself from devolving into a mass of teary jello.
The remaining women in the book are as single-trait as she is. Elega is ambitous. Myste is capricious. The maid is licentious. Most of the men are just as shallow with a couple exceptions.
The Story is bad though not quite as bad. One thing you will have to recognize going into it is that this is not a book. This is half of a book. He's just selling it in two pieces [cha-ching]. Unless you are convinced you're buying both from the outset, do not begin. And I do indeed differentiate this from a two book series as well. This is not that. This book does not stand on its own. That said, there is some intrigue present. You'll have to buy the second book if you want any answers though. The system of magic is ok as well. I would have liked a little more explanation, but there is plenty of potential.
As for the reading: I did not really like it, but I still feel the voice actor is talented. I kind of get what he was going for. I feel like his wispy, breathy, melodramatic portrayal was an attempt to reflect the personality of the protagonist. If that is the case, the reader nailed it and the reason I didn't like the reading is because I didn't like the protagonist. He also did a good job of characterizing the other voices such that they were recognizable and sympathetic. But for all that it was a coherent portrayal, it was just so grating.
Unimpressed with slow character development. The premise is interesting however the execution was unimpressive. The sexual storyline was unbearable. I would like to see the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant on Audible.
This book and its sequel are the most captivating that the author ever wrote. I absolutely recommend this book and it's sequel for anyone who enjoys fantasy novels. I think very highly of the first Covenant series, but for purely enjoyable story telling this is his best.
First things first- this book has a lot going on. The main character is involved in lots of plots and sub-plots and had many very interesting interactions with many vivid characters. The book is a fantasy/mystery. The climax is absolutely great.
My only real complaint about Donaldson is that his characters are so damned frustrating. In other books, after restating every problem a hundred times they often do little or do something weird or simply wait for someone else to do something. This book has some of that, but I believe that he handles it much better than in the Covenant novels. As I said, there is a lot going on and many times the character has good reason not to act.
Unfortunately the reader is the patron saint of frustrated narration and I think he was a terrible choice for any Donaldson novel. Technically he's is very good reader, but for my money he was a bad choice here.
The story is difficult to get into because it moves along so slowly. I'm still in the first half because I can't listen more than an hour before needing to listen to some other book with more action.
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