Published by Jo Fletcher Books on 1 August 2013
Genre: YA, Fantasy
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This review contains vague spoilers for the first book. Please stop reading if you haven't read the first book and would like to stay away from spoilers entirely! You can read my review of the first book, The City's Son, here.
Pen’s life is all about secrets: the secret of the city’s spirits, deities and monsters her best friend Beth discovered, living just beyond the notice of modern Londoners; the secret of how she got the intricate scars that disfigure her so cruelly – and the most closely guarded secret of all: Parva, her mirror-sister, forged from her reflections in a school bathroom mirror. Pen’s reflected twin is the only girl who really understands her.I HAVE SO MANY EMOTIONS.
Then Parva is abducted and Pen makes a terrible bargain for the means to track her down. In London-Under-Glass looks are currency, and Pen’s scars make her a rare and valuable commodity. But some in the reflected city will do anything to keep Pen from the secret of what happened to the sister who shared her face.
ALL THE FEELS. ALLLLL THE FEELS.
I don't even know how to write this review? All I want to do is curl up in a corner and clutch this book to me (it's a pity I only have the Kindle edition) and cry about Pen. Wonderful, beautiful Pen.
Okay. Um. Let me just. Gather my thoughts. *deep breath*
Tom Pollock is one cruel author.
This book was amazing. I really liked the first book, and I knew I would probably like this one even more since Pen is the MC this time round and I loved Pen in the first book. But holy crap, I was not expecting this. I was not expecting to be utterly blown away and to have my heart battered, pummelled by this awful, awful book. God, I HATE TOM POLLOCK.
Okay I love him really. But did he really have to torture me like that?
The story in this book is just. Perfect. The traumatic events of the first book has left physical and mental scars on Pen, and we see both of these things carefully explored in this book. It's so good. One day, while hiding in the bathroom of a taped-off building at her school, Pen is caught between her compact mirror and a mirror above a sink: in that moment, her infinite reflections merge into one and her mirror-sister is formed. They decide to distinguish between themselves by calling the girl in the mirror Parva.
Parva swans off into the world of London-Under-Glass and begins a new life; Pen and Parva meet in the bathroom mirror when they can, and they talk to each other. They understand each other in a way nobody else can, and Parva tells Pen how pretty she is. And it's wonderful, because in a way it's about self-affirmation and really getting to know yourself. Loving yourself. And that's a theme that runs through the book, of Pen gaining strength to stand on her own again, to know who she is and recognise her own worth and her own agency.
When Parva is abducted, Pen will do anything to get her back.
So she journeys into London-Under-Glass, and she finds out that there in that mirror society, Parva Khan is the most beautiful woman in the world, with all the scars running across her face. In the world of London-Under-Glass, symmetry is ugly. Asymmetry is beautiful. Imperfections are prized. Only the rich and elite have asymmetrical faces. And Parva's scars are all the rage. Before she was abducted, Parva had been royalty in this place, and Pen decides that her best strategy for the time being is to pretend to be Parva.
This book examines what beauty means, how beauty standards are a social construct, and how they have a real impact on everyone in society. How much appearances are worth, and how we all look at each other and judge based on what we see. And it's just such an amazing thing to see woven so deftly into this fantasy novel.
As Pen tries her best to navigate this confusing world and find Parva, she meets Espel. Espel is a steeplejill, someone who works on rooftops, gathering rubble which rains from the sky and building with it, and Pen saves her life when she almost falls from the roof. Espel is from a poorer area of London; her face is symmetrical. Pen hires her as her lady in waiting, and they slowly begin to trust each other and become friends, and Espel tries to help Pen find Parva.
And they kiss.
And then they kiss some more.
Literally, why haven't more people read this book? Only 16 reviews on Goodreads, and it's a fantasy novel with a Pakistani girl as its protag, and she falls in love with another girl, and it is so well-written and utterly perfect! It's sweet and hot and adorable and they're so attracted to each other. Espel is just so lovely! I LOVE HER SO MUCH.
But most especially I love Pen. Pen is so strong and so beautiful and I love her for all the ways she tries to stay in control after she had her control taken from her in the first book. I love her for the lengths she's willing to go to for those she loves, for the tough decisions she had to make in this book, for her bravery and her vulnerability and just. Everything. She really shines as a character.
The ending is so cruel. I can't say much about it for fear of spoiling it, but it ripped my heart out. (Also: CLIFFHANGER.)
Whereas the first book dragged for me, this book didn't at all. I was hooked, and I couldn't stop reading. I must admit this is probably because I fucking adore Pen to hell and back and I was much more invested in the romance this time round. I did feel like the plot was tighter and more satisfying in this novel though.
Ugh, THIS BOOK. This book with all these characters who are so deeply loyal to each other, who would do anything for each other. IT'S SO PAINFUL. HELP ME, WHAT AM I GONNA DO UNTIL THE NEXT BOOK.
(Our Lady of the Streets comes out this August! Eeeeeeeeek.)