Review: The Mirror and the Curse

It's been a while since the last Faraway Castle book, so I was pleased to jump back into JM Stengl's creative world of modern-day teens living in a realm of magic and fairy tales. Like the other books in this series, The Mirror and the Curse is loosely inspired by a well-known fairy tale, which in this case is "Snow White." The book actually reminded me more of Sofia the First than any fairy tale due to its focal point on a flying horse competition. Like Lucy Tempest's recent "Snow White" retelling, The Mirror and the Curse does not contain seven dwarfs and instead features cameos of characters from the previous books in the series along with a new love interest who is part dwarf. It doesn't quite hit the same level of imaginative fantasy as The Rose and the Briar, but it is still a pleasant read.

The Mirror and the Curse by JM Stengl

The Mirror and the Curse is the story of Princess Eddi, who was a "best friend" character in previous Faraway Castle books. In this story, she acquires a flying horse named Snow White and trains her to race in a royal competition. Eddi is more athletic than the other princesses in this series but is by no means a tomboy. She crushes hard over the hottie prince, Fidelio, which instantly turns her into the enemy of Raquel, another racer, who wants Fidelio for herself. I have been in this situation before, and it is not a fun place. Even after Eddi decides that Fidelio is too shallow and self-absorbed to pursue a true relationship with him, Raquel still hates her because Fidelio likes Eddi more than her. Eddi's struggles with love get more complicated when she realizes that she has romantic feelings toward her trainer, Kai, which seem to be unreciprocated.

This book has very little to do with "Snow White" at face value. The only similarity is that someone is out to get Eddi, but that person is not instantly identified as her stepmother and becomes a bit of an investigation throughout the second half of the book. At first, it seems like the perpetrator is more interested in sabotaging the race than hurting Eddi and her magical winged horse, but the attacks become more and more dangerous as they get closer to the championship match. No real harm comes to Eddi thanks to the protection of her friends, especially Kai and Geoff, who is something of an expert in magical science. Their protection allows her to focus on her telepathic link to White and their training together to win the race.

The love story in this book is a classic "Will they?/Won't they?" scenario. It's pretty clear from the beginning that Eddi and Kai belong together, but she gravitates toward Fidelio because he's the one who actively pursues her. It takes a magical curse to get Kai to finally fess up to his true feelings. This dichotomy is a direct parallel to the romance in the previous book, The Lady and the Wish, in which Gillian wanted to be with a prince who treated her like a piece of meat until she realized the right person for her was the one who was by her side the entire time. I guess that's why the romance in this book didn't quite resonate with me as much as The Siren and the Scholar or The Rose and the Briar. It felt trite after seeing it so many times in romcoms. Still, it's always nice to see true love prevail.

The Mirror and the Curse is a refreshing return to the world of Faraway Castle after being away for so long. It was nice to take a trip back to this magical retreat where princes and princesses can get a break from the hustle and bustle of their busy lives. I enjoyed reading about new and familiar faces from previous books and learning how Eddi attained her happy ending. I would recommend this book to fans of Sofia the First due to the flying horse competitions and to anyone who has read the other books that take place in this world and has been waiting patiently for the next installment.

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