In Calicchia’s debut YA fantasy novel, two sisters fight to destroy a powerful dark angel with the ability to taint humans’ views of themselves.
Despite her spirited disposition and kung fu know-how, 17-year-old Cailyssa Larkin doesn’t like the person she sees in the mirror—and she’s destroyed several mirrors because of it. She has three good friends and a plucky younger sister, Terry, who all attend the same high school she does, but otherwise, Cailyssa is an outsider there. One day, while she and her friends are at the mall, Cailyssa spots Daemon, her sullen, gothic heartthrob, sitting alone at a food-court table. Daemon invites her to meet him later at her peculiar Uncle Spencer’s mirror-filled house, a location forbidden by her parents. She manages to leave home that evening on the pretext of going to the mall, but her parents force her to bring Terry along. When the sisters arrive at the house, they find Daemon curiously dressed in medieval garb. In the largest of the mirrors, Uncle Spencer unveils a terrifying vision to Cailyssa: an apocalyptic near-future world ruled by hatred and self-loathing. Using the same mirror as a portal, Cailyssa enters Mirror World, a Tolkien-esque realm under the pall of fallen angel Lord Speculus, who can influence what people see when they look at themselves in mirrors. After an attack from the dark lord, Cailyssa convenes with Terry, Daemon, and Uncle Spencer at the Larkin family castle, where she discovers supernatural abilities and a surprising family history. In the safety of the castle, she begins to plot a strategy to destroy Speculus and keep him from spreading his terror to Earth. Cailyssa’s spunky narration is winning enough to freshen up this novel’s familiar fantasy and YA genre trappings despite its occasional shifts from first- to third-person. The final battle’s sustained, palpable peril also staves off predictability. However, Daemon fares poorly as a love interest due in part to his clunky, chauvinistic, antiquated-sounding diction (“I was angry because I was disgusted with your behavior. You were acting like a traipse!”). His depiction appropriates some of the eerier aspects of Twilight’s Edward Cullen—Daemon watches Cailyssa while she sleeps, for example—which may make it hard for some readers to root for the inevitable romance.
Despite its heavy-handed titular metaphor, this novel succeeds in injecting fun and adventure into the psychology of self-perception.