The Singular and Extraordinary
tale of Mirror and Goliath
by: Ishbelle Bee
**** 4 out of 5 Stars
Review by: Mark Palm
I’ve said it a million times; the most fun books to read are often difficult to review. A lot of the times it is because the author has constructed a plot so ingenious that it’s tough not to give away spoilers. Sometimes it has to do with well-crafted characters, and the difficulty in conveying that second-hand. In the case ofThe Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath, by Ishbelle Bee, it is something quite different. Rarely has a book been so accurately titled. This novel is singular, and extraordinary, and exceptionally difficult to describe. I can, and will give you a synopsis, and try to convey the flavor of it, but I feel like I’m trying to describe the color red to someone who has been blind since birth. So I am going to give it a shot, and just bear with me.
There are several storylines, but two are central; the first is about Mirror, who both is and isn’t a little girl. Her grandfather locked her inside of a clock, which has strange properties. Months later she was rescued from the clock by a Constable named Goliath. Once out of the clock she is no longer human, but something else entirely. What, exactly, nobody knows. Goliath also is something else, a large hairy man as big as a wall who can transform into a bear or an eagle. He is her protector, but what he is protecting her from is unsure. The second story, which twists and twines with the first, is about John Loveheart, who seemed to be ordinary until his aunt poisoned his mother. Then Mr. Fingers, the King of the Underworld, killed his father and adopted Loveheart, and takes him to live with his other sons, one of whom is Jack the Ripper, and all of whom are either evil or mad. Loveheart is sometimes good and sometimes not, but he is pretty much always half-insane. When Mirror arrives in London from Egypt Mr. Fingers wants Loveheart to take her so he can eat her to capture the soul inside her that entered her while she was in the clock. There are so many other minor storylines, about a boy who is Death, and some London constables who discovered Mr. Finger’s plot, and other stories.
The truth however, is that there is no way in which I can describe this book that will prepare you for the experience of reading it. Ms. Bee is an exceptional stylist with a voice that is completely and totally her own. She drops beautiful and startling similes and metaphors with astonishing ease, and is one of the very few authors who can play with syntax in a way that is actually revelatory rather than just being annoying.
The style and tone are also intriguing, often having the feel of a real Grimm fairytale, where horror and humor go hand in hand. The most original thing about this novel is Ms. Bee’s voice, which is something that is hard to define. It isn’t just prose, it’s a unique and original way of seeing, and describing a world that is different and new and totally belongs to just one person. Of the many things that make this novel so original is the quality of Ms. Bee’s voice, and her talent is showcasing it. There were times where I felt a bit unsure, and a few times where the unusual syntax felt a bit forced, but I was never bored, and I never ever knew what to expect. So bring on book two.