The Dark Mirror / Blade of Fortriu

The Dark Mirror and Blade of Fortriu are the first two books in Juliet Marillier’s Bridei Chronicles.  In The Dark Mirror we see the rise to kingship of Bridei, a 6th Century Pict as well as his relationship with Tuala, his half-human foster-sister, and in Blade of Fortriu two of the minor characters from Mirror, Ana and Faolan take center stage  in a story that mostly develops their own backgrounds and futures, with one of Bridei’s significant battles forming a secondary backdrop story.

These stories are based on real historical characters (e.g. Bridei I of the Picts), with more overt magic than stories like Stewarts’s Merlin stories, but still maintaining a generally realistic feel.  This is a form of historical fiction that I particularly enjoy, although not knowing much about the history of the Picts the relationship to real history mostly passed me by.

The central characters of The Dark Mirror are compelling enough that I enjoyed the novel, although the outcome is never really in doubt to the reader, and of little doubt to most of the characters too.  The story never truly captivated me, however, and felt slightly rushed at times, moving quickly from age to age.  The quirky cast of characters that educate Bridei as a child were all interesting, but none very fleshed out (I got the impression that they might be recognisable characters from Pictish history, but I wasn’t able to verify this).

I expected more of Bridei (especially given the name of the series) and Tuala in Blade of Fortriu, although Marillier’s sequels often leave behind the central characters of the previous stories.  Bridei and Tuala do feature, but are decidedly minor characters.  I found the story of Ana and Faolan less interesting, with Ana’s development particularly dull (although the characters note how much she has changed, I didn’t see much change at all), and Faolan’s background less interesting than Mirror suggested it might be.

A love triangle features strongly in Blade; I don’t have any objection to this trope in general, but it wasn’t well done here.  Other than his magical nature and exceptional good looks, there was nothing appealing about Ana’s other beau, even though it was obvious throughout that she would end up with him, rather than Faolan.  Perhaps there’s some sort of redemption and superior love waiting for Faolan in a later book (the end of the story suggests that he might feature centrally in a later novel in the series), but I was rather unsatisfied that he came out of the triangle so poorly.

I’d recommend reading The Dark Mirror, at least – it works well as a standalone novel – and would recommend Blade of Fortriu to anyone that enjoyed Mirror.  However, if you’re new to Marillier, I’d suggest starting with the superior Wolfskin/Foxmask or the Sevenwaters novels.


Featured Question: E.T. & Star Wars

Flimzy noticed that E.T.’s appearance was being used in dating events in Star Wars and asked a “Are E.T. and Star Wars in the same universe?“, the most viewed question on the site to date.

DVK explains that this is the case: Lucas and Spielberg agreed to merge their universes (although they probably thought they were just adding Easter eggs), starting with a kid in a Yoda mask and a snippet of the “Yoda Theme” in E.T. and matched by the appearance of other “Children of the Green Planet” (i.e. others from the same planet as E.T., Brodo Asogi) in Phantom Menace.

HoloNet News Vol 531 #50 has a brief mention of Senator Grebleips (“Spielberg” backwards), established in Cloak of Deception to be from Brodo Asogi funding an “Extragalactic Survey”, presumably the one where E.T. visits Earth (or the one where a member of Yoda’s race does, making popular the masks).

A sequel to the novelization of the E.T. movie, E.T.: The Book of the Green Planet, confirms the tie in by stating that one of the names given to the planet is Brodo Asogi, and Children of the Green Planet is the translation of the name of E.T.’s species.

If you’re interested in these sorts of cross-over Easter eggs, take a look for Han Solo in Firefly, Alien in Predator, and Warehouse 13/Eureka.


After almost a year in beta, we now have over 3000 users and an active community of science fiction fans (as well as a few users that are actively working in this area) providing input, answers, moderation, blog posts and their own time to make the site a global success.

Congratulations to all the members – your effort has paid off, and today has graduated from a beta Stack Exchange website to a full-fledged member of the Stack Exchange family.

What does this mean?

New design.

Be sure to check out the errorCAPTCHA (human verification), about, and 404 (page not found) pages, and check out the different look of meta (and, while you’re there, take a look at some of the hot meta questions).

Privileges have changed.

Now that we’re not a beta site, the privileges required to do certain things have increased. That means there are fewer people to do them, and you might not be able to do everything that you could yesterday.

If you see something problematic, please comment and flag. Your moderators will be happy to close, reopen, migrate, protect or delete questions or answers that need it, especially if there’s comments and/or flags from multiple users saying that’s what needs to happen.

Remember that anyone can edit.  Even if you lost the edit privilege, you can still edit any answer or question – it’ll just go into a moderation queue to be verified first.  Again, there are fewer people to work through these suggested edits now, too, so it might take a little longer for the suggestions to be processed, but generally our moderators are super fast, so you probably won’t wait long.  If your edit is approved, you get reputation, so it’s another way to build up to the privilege level that you used to enjoy.

Vote Early, Vote Often, and Vote Some More. Voting builds reputation, which will help more users earn the privileges that let the site be more user-run than moderator-run.  When you’ve run out of votes, find an unanswered or poorly answered question and answer it, to gather more reputation for yourself.

We’re linked in the footer of regular Stack Exchange sites

Hopefully we’ll get some new visitors as a result.  Please take care to be even more friendly and helpful than you already are to help out our new members.  In particular, if you down-vote or vote to close, please make sure that you leave a comment (or upvote an existing comment) explaining what’s wrong with the question/answer, so that we encourage better participation by these new users, rather than scare them away.

Let your friends and fellow fans know about the site (and the blog!) – we get around 1500 visits a day, but the more people who come, the wider the pool of expertise we can bring in.  This is just one giant leap towards becoming the authoritative site for science fiction and fantasy questions – we still need to work hard to get the rest of the way.

Movies Sister Site Launches

The Movies StackExchange site is now available to the public.  If you’ve got questions that need answering by a film expert, then this is a good place to ask.

There don’t seem to be many sci-fi or fantasy movie questions yet, but if you’re particularly interested in or expert in film, then you might want to keep an eye on the questions there (if you’ve got an account on our site with at least 200 reputation, then if you associate the two accounts – you’ll be prompted to do this if you use the same OpenID – then you’ll start off there with 101 reputation).

If you’ve got a question about a science fiction or fantasy movie, where do you ask that question, now that there’s both sites?  Consider who you would like an answer from: an expert in science fiction / fantasy, or an expert in movies in general; different types of questions will suit each site.  Some questions will be perfectly acceptable on both sites, and in those cases it’s up to the asker to decide where they’d like to ask (in general questions won’t be migrated between the sites, and duplicates may exist on both sites, as long as they are not exact duplicates).  You should definitely not post the same question on both sites, however.

Also, don’t forget that there’s a similar site for the written word, Literature, where there continue to be a reasonable number of science-fiction and fantasy literature questions, aimed more at a literature audience than a sci-fi/fantasy one.

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