by Mary Jo
Authors cherish our books because we love them, since it takes love to keep working when a story turns feral. But all is forgiven when the book is finished and alive. This is why I'm so pleased to be reissuing my Dark Mirror Young Adult trilogy with a terrific new set of covers designed by the amazing Kim Killion. (I liked the original cover as well, which is below, but the new ones are more dynamic.)
The series was partially inspired by the parallels between the Napoleonic and World War. In both eras, Britain stood alone against a Continental tyrant who wanted to conquer the world. The English Channel saved the British Isles from invasion, but it was a near run thing.
I've always loved fantasy and I've enjoyed writing stories that include magic and the challenges of wielding it. In an era of Harry Potter popularity, I had the contrarian idea that it would be fun to write about a school that didn't teach magic, but tried to suppress it because aristocrats despised it.
My first story on that theme was THE MARRIAGE SPELL (not currently available, though I will release it eventually.) I'd intended that book to launch a new series, but my publisher wasn't interested in continuing with it, so I moved to Kensington to write straight historical romance with no magic.
But I still liked the idea of a series set at an anti-Hogwarts school. Then one of my editors suggested that it would make a good YA series. Bingo! A whole new series would give me the chance to use the parallels between the Regency and WWII. To connect those eras, I'd have to use time travel. I'm not particularly fond of time travel books, but if that's what it takes to make a story work, I'll do it. <G>
The series was published under the name M. J. Putney to indicate that it wasn't what I usually write, but honorable characters and their adventures are typical of my stories, and people who started Dark Mirror rather warily have ended up telling me that they loved it. (This is an argument for how important an author's voice is. If you like my historical romance voice, you may well like my young adult paranormal historicals!)
Dark Mirror, first in the series, establishes the world and the characters. The protagonist is sixteen year old Lady Victoria Mansfield. Horrified to find that she has reviled magical abilities, she vows to conceal them, but she is forced to reveal her budding talents to save a life. She's rewarded for her courage by being banished to Lackland Abbey, a grim school where magically gifted young aristocrats are sent to be 'cured' of their appalling talents.
Tory is determined to be cured as quickly as possible so she can return home to what remains of her normal life, but her exile becomes her destiny when she find Merlin's Irregulars, a secret group of students who work together to master their abilities, and who are sworn to serve their country.
Tory makes friends, falls in love, and discovers a time portal to 1940 Britain, where her country is being hammered by Nazi forces. Though terrified, Tory leads a group of her friends to the future, where they must use their power to save their country, even if it means facing danger from the guns of Dunkirk….
Dark Passage will be released on August 26 and Dark Destiny will be published on September 23rd. Both are available for preorder. Print and audio versions of all three books will be released soon, but here's a sample of the Dark Mirror.
Somersetshire, England, 1803
Lady Victoria Mansfield flew high, high over her family’s estate. Arms and legs outstretched, long skirts fluttering around her knees as she gloried in her freedom and in the soft, scented wind.
She laughed with delight as she saw the familiar Somersetshire hills from above. Here was the vast stone length of her home, Fairmount Hall, there the beautiful gardens that ran to the bluffs. Waves crashed far below and gulls soared at Tory’s height, their cries haunting.
She swooped down to investigate the round stone dovecote. Doves squawked in protest when she flew inside. Startled, she almost plunged to the ground.
Concentrate on staying aloft. With a giddy rush, Tory swooped up again, soaring through the door of the dovecote and into the sky. Perhaps she should fly to the nearby estate of the Harford family. The Honorable Edmund Harford was the eldest son and heir to his father’s title and property.
She’d always admired Edmund. He was back from university for the summer and she wanted him to see that she had grown. Perhaps he’d think she was almost as pretty as her older sister, Sarah.
Tory banked into the wind and turned east toward the Harford estate.
A horrified cry shocked her awake.
Jolted from sleep, Tory realized she was floating a yard above her rumpled bed, terrifyingly unsupported. Her mother, the Countess of Fairmont, stood in the door, her expression horrified. “Victoria,” she breathed. “Oh, please, no!”
Tory glanced up into the canopy above her head. A spider had spun a web in the corner, and the ugly creature was looking right at her.
She shrieked and crashed down on the bed, her breath whooshing out as she flopped onto her stomach. Shaken and afraid, she pushed herself up with her arms. She couldn’t really have been flying! “What…what happened?”
“You were flying.” Her mother closed the door, her white-knuckled hand locked around the knob. “Don’t ever do that again!” she said, voice shaking. “You know how society feels about mages. How…how your father feels about them.”
“I can’t be a mage!” Tory gasped, shocked by the impossibility of her mother’s words. “I’m a Mansfield. We’re not magical!”
At least, not that Tory had ever heard. Seeing the countess’s guilty expression caused her to ask incredulously, “Mama, have there been mages in our family?”
Such a thing wasn’t possible. It just wasn’t! Magic corrupted, and she wasn’t corrupt. Yes, she’d felt herself changing as she grew to womanhood. Strange dreams, new desires. But those were just growing pains. Not magic!
Tory refused to believe her mother could be a mage. Lady Fairmount was considered the greatest lady in the county, an example to all well-born young ladies.
And yet… guilt was written plain as day on the countess’s lovely face. When she refused to reply, Tory’s world began to crack beneath her.
“Do you have magical ability?” she said, shocked and desperately unwilling to believe such a thing. Yet looking back… “You always knew what we were doing. Geoff and Sarah and I thought you had eyes in the back of your head.”
“There were rumors,” her mother whispered, tears shining in her eyes. “About my Russian grandmother, Viktoria Ivanova. The one you’re named for. She died when I was very small so I didn’t really know her, but…it’s possible she brought mage blood into the family.”
Tory’s namesake had poisoned the blue-blooded Mansfield family with magic? And Tory might suffer for that? It wasn’t fair!
Feeling utterly betrayed, she cried, “How could you not warn me? If I’d known I might have magic, I could have guarded against it!”
“I thought you children had escaped the taint! I have very little power. Scarcely any at all. It seemed better not to worry you about what was such an unlikely possibility.” Lady Fairmount was literally wringing her hands. “But…you look rather like Viktoria Ivanova. You must have inherited some of her talent.”
Tory wanted to howl. Voice breaking, she said, “I’ve never floated like this before. It’s just a freak, something that will never happen again, I swear it!”
The countess looked deeply sad. “Magic appears when boys and girls grow to adulthood. It’s hard to suppress, but you must try, Victoria. If your father finds out, he’ll certainly send you to Lackland.”
Tory gasped in disbelief. Though children of the nobility who had magic were often sent to the prison-like school called Lackland Abbey, surely she wouldn’t be forced to leave her friends and family! “You’ve managed to hide your power from everyone, and so can I. I’m another whole generation away from Viktoria Ivanova,” Tory drew a shaky breath. “No one will ever know about me, either.”
“The ability to fly is not minor magic,” her mother said, expression worried. “You may find it harder to hide your abilities than I have.”
“I wasn’t flying!” Tory protested. “I always toss and turn when I’m sleeping.” Knowing how feeble that sounded, she continued, “If I am cursed with magic, I’ll learn to control it. You always said I was more stubborn than Geoffrey and Sarah put together.”
“I hope you succeed,” her mother said sadly. “If your ability becomes known, I don’t think I’ll be able to save you from Lackland Abbey. God keep you, my child.” Silent tears fell unchecked as she backed from the room, closing the door behind her.
Leaving her daughter alone in a shattered world.
"Absolutely riveting…Putney creates a vivid historical fantasy and delivers a page turning read."
RT Book Reviews
"I loved it! Dark Mirror begins a charming Regency paranormal time-travel saga featuring Tory (Lady Victoria), a clever and talented young woman who discovers her magical strength and helps a band of gallant young mages travel in time to save the world. Exciting, adventurous, romantic, and delightful!”
—NY Times bestselling author Jennifer Ashley
Dark Mirror was nominated by YALSA ( the Young Adult Librarian Association) as one of the best YA novels of the year.
Dark Mirror also includes "Fallen from Grace," a bonus short story set in the Dark Mirror world. I'll be giving away a copy of Dark Mirror to one person who leaves a comment between now and Tuesday midnight. (Sorry, US only.)
Mary Jo, hoping you'll give the story a try, and that you enjoy it!