Friday, June 28, 2013

Becky's View: Plague in the Mirror by Deborah Noyes

Plague in the Mirror by Deborah Noyes
♦publisher: Candlewick Press
♦release date: June 11th, 2013
♦hardcover, 272 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦source: from publisher for honest review
In a sensual paranormal romance, a teen girl’s doppelgänger from 1348 Florence lures her into the past in hopes of exacting a deadly trade.

It was meant to be a diversion — a summer in Florence with her best friend, Liam, and his travel-writer mom, doing historical research between breaks for gelato. A chance to forget that back in Vermont, May’s parents, and all semblance of safety, were breaking up. But when May wakes one night sensing someone in her room, only to find her ghostly twin staring back at her, normalcy becomes a distant memory. And when later she follows the menacing Cristofana through a portale to fourteenth-century Florence, May never expects to find safety in the eyes of Marco, a soulful painter who awakens in her a burning desire and makes her feel truly seen. The wily Cristofana wants nothing less of May than to inhabit each other’s lives, but with the Black Death ravaging Old Florence, can May’s longing for Marco’s touch be anything but madness? Lush with atmosphere both passionate and eerie, this evocative tale follows a girl on the brink of womanhood as she dares to transcend the familiar — and discovers her sensual power.

Review:  When I first started reading this dark historical story, I loved it.  The beautiful descriptions of both modern-day and 14th century Italy enchanted me and the hint of something creepy and bizarre and ghostly about to happen drew me in.  You meet the main character, May, during her first eerie encounter with Cristofana, and she doesn’t know if she’s seen a ghost, had a nightmare, or is just going insane.  I liked May from the get-go, she seemed genuine, a bit of a thinker, a girl going through some emotional family problems.  

The story, though, was not what I was expecting: a story about a girl who gets pulled into the past by her creepy doppleganger, and the adventure and romance that she finds there.  What I got instead was this:  a girl is contacted by her ancestor, Cristofana, who lures her to the past where she meets a handsome stranger; Cristofana then implores May to switch permanently.  The rest of the story is May trying to find out who Cristofana really is and actually considering switching with her, partly to be with the man she met, partly to escape the stresses of her life at home, and partly because Cristofana’s urgency to switch quickly turns into violent threats.

Those looking for an engaging love story should probably look elsewhere.   There is meant to be something brewing with May and her best friend Liam, but it fell short for me as he came off a bit whiny, unsupportive when she tries to reach out to him, and I didn't really get a connection between them beyond anything friendly and slightly superficial.  There is also Marcus, the mysterious man she meets for only moments in her first trip into the past.   I’ll admit it was a romantic moment, full of long looks and a sweet patching-up of her injured knee, but for May to suddenly be contemplating leaving her life in modern times to face the Black Death just to be with this complete stranger just did not seem believable to me. 

Despite a few hiccups, I found Plague in the Mirror to be both lush in historical descriptions and terrifying in a way that fully immerses the reader in the horrors of the black plague.  It was a slow-moving plot in many parts, with maybe just a bit too much historical atmosphere and not enough meat to the story, but interesting enough to keep me reading until the end.

  Find Deborah Noyes online:  Website  •  Twitter  

Purchase Plague in the Mirror:  Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound 


  1. This one actually sounds really cool! It's a bummer that it wasn't everything you wanted it to be, but at least you still liked it!

  2. Sorry this one fell kind of short for you, but it does sound pretty good! I'll check it out.:) Great review!

  3. Sounds pretty good. I have never read a book that deals with the black plague. Sounds like it might be really interesting to read. Great review!

  4. Thanks for the review! This is the first I've heard of this book... from the sounds of it, I might want to put on my borrow/sales list.