The Goblin Mirror

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

C. J. Cherryh takes advantage of readers’ familiarity with the elements of her plot by using a form of realistic narration to draw readers through the story. The narrative concentrates on the inner experiences of two of the three brothers who set out on a quest to find and stop what threatens the order of their world. The ambitious and dense elder brother, Bogdan, receives little attention. Tamas, the contemplative middle brother, and Yuri, the impulsive, affectionate younger brother, become the main characters.

In a culture and landscape loosely based on medieval Eastern Europe, the ruling family of Maggiar becomes aware that something dangerous is approaching them. Eventually, the younger brothers find themselves travelling separately in the magic lands, dealing with witches, goblins, and trolls as they are drawn inevitably toward a decisive confrontation with the oldest magical powers, a witch and a goblin queen, who between them have struck bargains that seem likely to ruin a once beautiful world.

Cherryh’s working out of this plot is interesting enough, but the main technique that makes this story good reading is her concentrating on the internal experiences of Tamas and Yuri. The two young men are naive and ignorant; their adventures involve gaining knowledge about the world and themselves as well as the usual captures, escapes, and struggles. The reader is confined mainly to their minds, and so experiences the story through their confusion, doubts, desires, and frustrations. This sort of telling emphasizes the mystery and wonder in their quest, making the tale almost as much a detective novel as an adventure novel.