Review: Plague in the Mirror by Deborah Noyes

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I'm coming around to reading these time travel novels for the 2013 YA and MG Time Travel Reading Challenge! Yes, I know, I've been slow but I'm getting around to it! So for today, I have a review of Plague in the Mirror by Deborah Noyes, which released yesterday, June 11. Are you ready for a tale that will take you back in time to plague-ridden Florence? Come read my review and add Plague in the Mirror to your shelf!

Plague in the Mirror
Title: Plague in the Mirror
Author: Deborah Noyes
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Date of Publication: June 11, 2013

In a sensual paranormal romance, a teen girl’s doppelgänger from 1348 Florence lures her into the past in hopes of exacting a deadly trade.

It was meant to be a diversion — a summer in Florence with her best friend, Liam, and his travel-writer mom, doing historical research between breaks for gelato. A chance to forget that back in Vermont, May’s parents, and all semblance of safety, were breaking up. But when May wakes one night sensing someone in her room, only to find her ghostly twin staring back at her, normalcy becomes a distant memory. And when later she follows the menacing Cristofana through a portale to fourteenth-century Florence, May never expects to find safety in the eyes of Marco, a soulful painter who awakens in her a burning desire and makes her feel truly seen. The wily Cristofana wants nothing less of May than to inhabit each other’s lives, but with the Black Death ravaging Old Florence, can May’s longing for Marco’s touch be anything but madness? Lush with atmosphere both passionate and eerie, this evocative tale follows a girl on the brink of womanhood as she dares to transcend the familiar — and discovers her sensual power.

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Check out the first few chapters of Plague in the Mirror!


My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Thank you so much to Erika of Candlewick for the review copy of this time-traveling goodness! And thank you to Deborah Noyes! Again, receiving this book for free in no way influenced my opinions of it. Let's not dilly-dally so off to my review!

I approached Plague in the Mirror with trepidation. Honestly, it's not even on my to-read list for June because I thought the publication date was still on July. However, apparently, the release day was moved earlier so I had to squeeze this in my reading schedule and review it near release date. Right before starting this book, I checked its Goodreads page and saw that its rating was below 3 and closer to 2 even. Sure, there were only 3 reviews I think back then and two of those were 1-star ratings. I was honestly scared because I haven't read a time travel novel I didn't like. Plus, I'm hosting a time travel challenge so what would it say about the novel if a reader as addicted to time travel as me didn't like it. But I am more than glad to have taken the leap of faith to start reading Plague in the Mirror. Because boy, I did not stop. This is a wonderful novel and I'm gonna tell you exactly why.

You can read the first few chapters of the novel in the excerpt I included in this post. Do yourself a favor and read even the first chapter. It's honestly one of the creepiest first scene or chapter I have read. I remember reading this late at night and then after debating with myself if I should continue this because I might scare myself more, I continued reading it and I never looked back. 

May's parents are getting a divorce and they're asking her to choose who she's going to live with. Not wanting to deal with that back home at Vermont, she joins her bestfriend Liam and his mother Gwen to Florence, Italy, doing research for Gwen's travel books. One night, she sees an apparition in her room, her somewhat ghostly twin, who even threatens her life. Her life from then on will never be the same as Cristofana brings her back in time to 1348, where the plague has been slowly infesting Florence, through a portal. There she meets a passionate painter, Marco, and is drawn to him. Cristofana offers a proposition that they switch lives. Cristofana doesn't want to die from the plague and May obviously wants to be with Marco. May continues on sneaking back to Old Florence, watching Marco from afar while Cristofana pretends to be May. May cannot do anything but watch as Cristofana snatches away the only guy she wants.

This novel is not as plot-oriented as most books and some people had issue with that. I normally have issues with these kind of books but in here, I didn't mind. Plague in the Mirror is an immersion to present and past Florence. Deborah Noyes made Florence alive right in front of my hands through words, through a book. I could see and feel all the tourists on current Florence and I could smell, see and feel how dirty and menacing and hard Florence was in Cristofana's time. Deborah also included some Italian phrases and words to make it all the more realistic. Cristofana, being not a native speaker of English, speaks in broken sentences and I truly appreciated that. One of my favorite novels ever is Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes and in there, the author even spelled everything wrong because that's how the character should be writing in his diary. So everything was such a thrill to me as I fully got into this story world.

Granted, May and Liam aren't exactly the most gripping characters written. The star of this novel is Cristofana, that manipulative, kitten-killing bitch. I remember raging on Twitter about Cristofana, about how she pretended to be May and seduced him and in effect, stole him from May. Not that he was May's in the first place but hey, isn't there a bro code for ghostly twins? She even played with Liam's feelings and I just hate her. But even though I hated her to the core, she was still my favorite. She's such a conflicted character and you can't help but see behind her flaws, why she's acting like that. Cristofana just wants to live and her only hope is to switch places with May in modern Florence, with no plague. She thinks May takes her life for granted and that she deserves more than to die because of something she can't control. Cristofana is very resourceful and if there's a question who would live in the worst of times, she will surely be the one.

Most of the novel was spent on Cristofana blackmailing May to go switch places and May thinking about it. Sneaking glances at Marco in her ghostly old Florence form, trying to forget him but failing to do so nonetheless. Nevertheless, it was completely engaging and I read this book in one sitting. I also like how this is not a romance novel and even the ending was open for interpretations. Even though this novel is not high on the romance element, it still got me hook, line and sinker, which speaks highly of this book.

Janni Lee Simner best said it in her blurb: "Dreamy and gorgeous and dark. I couldn't pull away from this tale of seduction--not by a lover, but by a dark past and a darker reflection of the storyteller's own self."

Even with the dislike for this novel, I am unapologetically liking this one. I can't help it! I love time travel, I love Italy and this book has made me feel so much hate for a character. Plague in the Mirror will take you back in time with its atmospheric storytelling and enraging-yet-engaging villain to old plague-infested Florence.

About Deborah Noyes

Deb writes for adults and children and is also an editor and photographer. She lives in Massachusetts with her family.

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