Review: The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath

cover-mirror and goliathTitle: The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath
Author: Ishbelle Bee
Series: The Peculiar Adventures of John Loveheart, Esq. #1
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Length: Novel
Available: June 2nd

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1888. A little girl called Mirror and her shape-shifting guardian Goliath Honeyflower are washed up on the shores of Victorian England. Something has been wrong with Mirror since the day her grandfather locked her inside a mysterious clock that was painted all over with ladybirds. Mirror does not know what she is, but she knows she is no longer human.

John Loveheart, meanwhile, was not born wicked. But after the sinister death of his parents, he was taken by Mr. Fingers, the demon lord of the underworld. Some say he is mad. John would be inclined to agree.

Now Mr Fingers is determined to find the little girl called Mirror, whose flesh he intends to eat, and whose soul is the key to his eternal reign. And John Loveheart has been called by his otherworldly father to help him track Mirror down…


Source: ARC from Angry Robot via NetGalley

I have rarely encountered a book so aptly titled as this one. Not only is it truly singular and extraordinary, it’s also unusual and unexpected. This book is also hard to describe and should probably best be read sideways with a magnifying glass viewed through a microscope that is approached with a periscope. It’s strange and whimsical, with more than a touch of horror, and absolutely revels in its Victorian setting, bringing in touches of angels and demons, mysticism, séances, Jack the Ripper, Greek mythology and Egyptian Archaeology, to name just a few. It’s clever and baffling and also quite charming, in a perplexing way.

I enjoyed it but I don’t think it would be for everyone. For one thing it isn’t told in a linear fashion and the multiple first person narrators have very distinctive, rambling styles – and occasionally distinctive formatting too. It’s almost as though the whole thing was split into individual chapters then shuffled up like a pack of cards to add to the confusion. The characters in the title dominate the first half of the book, but as more and more time is given to flashbacks and other characters, they get a little left behind. That’s when Loveheart takes over, and I found him both compelling and creepy and a very, very interesting.

If I stop and think about it too deeply, I find that the plot has all kinds of holes in it, nothing is ever truly explained (how did the clocks work, how was the princess caught?) and really, when it comes down to it, not much is wrapped up either. But thinking too hard about this book rather spoils the illusion. There are so many facets to the story that it becomes hard to know whether even the most random of statements and side-chapters are real and important or not. Mostly it’s mysterious and confusing and compelling and intriguing and doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense, but that’s fine.

If you’re looking for something different with dark humour and Gothic overtones, and aren’t too bothered by non-linear storytelling and unnecessary tangents, then you should find plenty to like here. It’s quaint and eccentric and even charming in a creepy way and thoroughly, thoroughly Victorian. One thing is for certain: I haven’t read anything else quite like it – and I’d love to read more.


The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath is out June 2nd!
Visit Ishbelle Bee for more details.

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