January 26, 2021

Book Review


Carole Johnstone

reviewed by Chelsea Hofmann

“We will not leave each other, never so long as we live.”

Twins Cat and El are the inventors and rulers of Mirrorland, the magical realm in the cupboard full of clowns, pirates, witches, and anything else their minds can come up with. Being raised on stories about Neverland, Narnia, and The Black Pearl, Cat and El turned their house into many magical realms, and built a full sized pirate ship to sail the imaginary seas. Their childhood was full of adventure, until one day they were orphaned and found wandering the streets. 

Now all grown up, Cat is thrown back into childhood memories when she returns from Los Angeles to her childhood home in Edinburgh. El’s husband Ross is frantic because she, and her boat, have gone missing. Cat has to face the truth about her home and all the secrets that are hidden there, because though she may be missing, El has left a scavenger hunt for Cat all throughout Mirrorland. Is everything as she remembered it, or is there more to Mirrorland than Cat could have ever imagined?

The very premise of Mirrorland is intriguing and not a story you see often. A dream world where anything can happen is blurred with the reality of Cat’s childhood. This book utilizes one of my favorite types of characters, the unreliable narrator. While it does take a bit to get into the story, once you understand the writing pattern, it sucks you into a complex and chilling story that has layer upon layer of depth and deception. 

What really made the book for me was the underlying terror that was always present in the background. Even if the mood was light, the reader sensed foreboding and knew something awful was just about to happen. Each letter Cat got led the reader deeper into the present mystery, but also deeper into Cat’s past. Her relationship with El was dynamic and complex, even if told by flashback. 

At the root of this story is the value of family and the way imagination plays a part in our lives. I enjoyed the flawed character of Cat, as well as the minor characters she meets along the way. More mysterious magical realism than thriller, this was a new genre to me and I have to say I enjoyed it. The way Carole Johnstone used the unreliability of childhood memory as a key factor in this story was well done and the ending to the story was especially satisfying. 

Thank you to Scribner and Carole Johnstone for my ARC of this book. Opinions are my own. Mirrorland comes out on April 20, 2021.