Author: Mike Wilks
Published by: Egmont
Publication date: 1 Oct. 2007
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Source: Personal collection
Buy the Book: Amazon
“In a world where rules and reason don’t apply, Melkin Womper, apprentice to master painter Ambrosius Blenk, and his new friends Ludo and Wren find themselves caught in a power struggle that involves stepping through paintings into a world where the bizarre is commonplace and all logic is irrelevant.”
Mirrorscape is the first in the Mirrorscape trilogy. A fantastical story about the young boy Melkin Womper and his journey from simple village ‘artist’ to wonderful visionary in his own right. As a main character Melkin is rather standard – he’s the usual good-boy, struggling with bullies, bad situations and other (more drastic) enemies. Whilst dragging his two side-kicks Ludo and Wren, along for the ride. The dynamic of the three main, school-aged, characters rather reminded me of the Harry Potter series. Wren, the girl of the group, was a bit of a know-it-all and Ludo wasn’t really all that enthusiastic about going on any of the adventures for one reason or another and it generally tended to be Melkin that made everything right. But there the comparison to other, more popular media, ends.
Mirrorscape is in the genre of book that will appeal to creative-types, partially because it features artistry in many forms, but also because it the world-building is extremely imaginative. Mike Wilks is an artist himself and after searching for his artwork after reading Mirrorscape the translation between his visual works and his novel is easy to see.
I’m not filled with praise for Mirrorscape though. The book started off really well, with Mel being taken from his family and forced into apprenticeship to Grand Master Ambrosius Blenk. The reasoning for this are well thought out and make for a good grounding for the novel. Even the early days within Melkins apprenticeship are better written and the emerging friendships and rivalries are a little far-fetched but entirely believable. Melkin earning the ire of head-apprentice Groot purely for being more talented is entirely believable considering the dog-eat-dog world that artistry can be. The friendship between Melkin, Ludo and Wren is pleasing and nicely handled.
It’s when Wilks really lets his artistic imagination fly that Mirrorscape suffers. He has set up the ‘real world’ in which Melkin and his fellows inhabit really well. The comes for the trio to discover the fantastical Mirror world which resides in the paintings in which Ambrosius Blenk (and others) create. Initially this concept is really exciting the both the reader and the characters involved. Honestly, I adore this idea. It’s so wonderfully wacky that it could be really enjoyable. Unfortunately, Wilks is something of a surrealist artist and everything becomes a little too out-there.
In the second half of the book everything just gets a bit silly. For me, good fantasy has to have some grounding in reality to make it believable. Throw that out of the window and everything just becomes a bit of a mess. Mirrorscape is a perfect example of this. Melkin and his friends stage some sort of war against the governing body of their home world within the Mirrorscape and not a single bit of it makes any sense. Which I felt was really disappointing compared to the build up until this point. I almost didn’t make it to the end of the book I felt it was so sluggish. The pacing turns into a complete ‘Then this happened and they did this’ fest and despite the wildly imaginative setting, it was very dull – not the excitement that the book had built up to.
As for antagonist; Adolphus Spute is one of the more interesting characters; working for the governing body of the world the Fifth Mystery. This Fifth Mystery controls the Pleasures of the world – the ability to be able to use new materials for creative pursuits, be it a type of cloth or a colour of paint. Usually reserved for only those that can afford to buy the pleasures it is Adolphus Sputes job to collect on those that do not adhere to the rules of the Fifth Mystery. Along the course of the journey he becomes understandable attached to the idea of bringing Melkin Womper to account for his misdeeds. I found the character a lot more interesting than the ‘heroes’ of the story and I don’t think that all is lost for Wilks if he can create such a captivating antagonist.
The novel is aimed towards Young Adult readers, but there are some scenes that younger audiences might find distressing; threat, violence and scenes of implied torture are up for reading and I wasn’t aware that the book was aimed towards a younger audience – who might struggle with some of the later concepts – until writing this review.
I don’t think that Mirrorscape is a total wash-out, but it’s certainly not the imaginative, well thought out story that I thought it was going to be during the first few chapters. Some readers may love the outlandish world within the paintings, but as a suggestion should you wish to pick up this book – familiarize yourself with Mike Wilks paintings before you embark on your journey within Mirrorscape as it might help inform what you’re letting yourself in for.