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Bewildering Stories

Marie Brennan, Doppelganger

reviewed by Clyde Andrews

Author: Marie Brennan
Publisher: Warner Books; April 1, 2006
Hardcover: $16.95 AU
Length: 432 pages
ISBN: 0446616982

Doppelganger is Marie Brennan’s first book. At her website she goes into great detail about the trials and tribulations in getting this novel into print. That alone is a very interesting read, especially seeing as I too would one day like to see a novel of mine “out there.” And it’s nice to read about other people’s experiences. If you go there, take a look at the article she has written about the differences between buying a book from an online store as opposed to a brick and mortar one. Quite enlightening.

I have to say right off the bat, that there’s something appealing about debut novel for me. Call it curiosity, a touch of envy (in a nice way), or even admiration that there is hope for all of us aspiring writers. I, like a lot of us, cling to that hope.

Whatever it is, this novel is certainly a gem. One gets the impression that Marie has put a a lot of heart and soul into it. Bear with me for a moment as I explain.

You see, the novel not only has a very good idea behind it, the idea is backed up beautifully by the execution of the narrative. There are two main characters. Miryo and Mirage. Miryo is a witch, Mirage is a class of people referred to as “Hunters”: skilled, silent, and deadly.

Miryo the witch, coming to an age where she has to pass a test to continue with her studies, is unsure about which path she will take once she has passed her test, as there are many to choose from. And each chapter (up until the mid-point of the book) alternates between the adventures of these two fascinating lead characters. This, to me, created the very engaging and “what’s going to happen next?” style of the book.

As the story unfolds, we find out that something is preventing Miryo from being a witch rather than just a student: the existence of Mirage. You see, Mirage isn’t supposed to exist, for when a witch is born a doppelganger is created. The doppelganger is a shell (or is supposed to be) and is usually killed at birth, useful only in creating the witch.

Mirage, however, was not killed. And it is this fact that prevents Miryo from progressing as a proper witch. So much so that she can’t even use her powers until the doppelganger is killed, for having a ‘mirror’ in the world could ‘confuse’ the magic, causing unpredictable and sometimes even dangerous situations if used.

And that’s where the adventure begins: Miryo has to seek out Mirage. Meanwhile, Mirage has been given an assignment involving the hunting down of an assassin. The one murdered under suspicious circumstances is a powerful witch leader... And the plot thickens, as they say. I won’t reveal too much, as to do so would spoil the enjoyment of the story, as it is so intertwined.

I will say, however, that Marie weaves a wonderful world, rich in style and content. From the outfits the peoples of this land wear to the schools of magic Miryo must choose from. Everything seemed to have a history, a feeling that they had been there for aeons.

Now, I’m not saying this book reads like a history of the world Marie has created. Rather, the information and feelings she puts onto paper enhance the prose greatly. It not just a case of “here’s a witch, let’s see what she does”; it’s more like, “let’s see the witch step out of her safe, familiar home and explore the world with her as she tries to find her doppelganger.” So wonderfully written I tell you that I was in awe of it in places.

And when the two lead characters do meet — well, again I won’t spoil anything, but it was fantastic. I don’t think I have ever read a book so quickly, wanting to find out what happens next always on my mind even when I did have to put the book down. I loved it.

And the ending ... Oh, my!

What a great first novel, from the use of magic — and its price — to the fact that the characters from the very first word were believable and likable. So much so that I cared greatly for them: which was one reason why the concept of the Doppelganger was so good. Both characters were brilliant. And I was always asking myself: which one will survive? Then I thought — No, I want them both to live. Damn! What’s going to happen? How can this happen? Great stuff, and like I said above, real heart and soul involved.

I simply can’t wait for the next book: Warrior and Witch. Thanks Marie, you did for me what a book was supposed to. Entertain!

Copyright © 2006 by Clyde Andrews

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