Titles: The Water Mirror, The Stone Light, and The Glass Word
Author: Kai Meyer
What it's about: Set in a very much alternate Earth, our story begins in Venice, where the orphan Merle and her friend Junipa are going to work as apprentices to a great magic mirror maker. The master mirror maker, Archimbaldo, is mysterious but kindly, curing Junipa's blindness by giving her mirror eyes, and his housekeeper Eft is a friend to Merle. Across the street is another craftsman and his apprentices. Despite the traditional rivalry between the apprentices of the two households, Merle is taken with Serafin, the former street thief turned delivery boy. The two quickly get entangled in the war with the Egyptian Empire, however, and are separated. However, while Merle loses Serafin, she gains a companion in the Flowing Queen, the mysterious protector of Venice, and Vermithrax the stone lion. Soon the three of them are off to Hell to solicit aid in protecting Venice from the Egyptians.
What I thought: Confusing summary, I'll bet. What I liked about this series was how serious and dark it turned out to be, and also how you could tell that the author had put a lot of effort into developing this world. On the flip side, it seemed as though there was more development done than we were shown, and I feel that the series as a whole would have been better if it had moved just a bit slower. As it was, the relationship between Merle and Serafin seemed a bit hasty, and some plot points, while making sense, seemed a little confusing because the build-up wasn't completely there. Ah, but don't think I'm condemning the series. Not for a minute! This is great fantasy. The bleak city of Venice, the mysterious, alien, powerful Egyptian Empire, the fact that Hell is a desolate, inhuman wasteland that's actually visitable by mortals, and then even the Iron Eye and the realm it is built to mimic. This is all wonderfully conceived. Merle is a great, realistic character with plenty of development and personality. She questions, she makes mistakes, she doesn't let destiny just push her along. And the series' conclusion makes sense and is well executed. I didn't like it all that much personally, but I can't say it wasn't good.
Overall: A very solid fantasy trilogy.