BookBrowse Reviews The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Mirror Thief

by Martin Seay

The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay X
The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2016, 592 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2017, 592 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Filled with vivid imagery, this novel takes readers across centuries and around the world, with a story that weaves three parallel narratives together.

It is easy to see why Martin Seay's debut novel, The Mirror Thief, has been compared to David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, and comparisons to Elmore Leonard and Umberto Eco are also justified for this substantial and richly imagined novel, spanning three time periods and two continents.

In the opening contemporary storyline, Curtis Stone, a wounded war veteran, cannot return to his post as a military policeman after years of active duty in Kosovo, the Gulf and Guantanamo Bay. He receives disability payments and is encouraged by his wife to re-train, but, unsure of his future direction, Curtis agrees to do a job for an ex-service colleague Damon, now security manager for an Atlantic City casino. Damon wants Curtis to track down Stanley Glass, a gambler who also happens to be a friend of Curtis' father. Curtis has little to go on, but is armed with Stanley's copy of The Mirror Thief, a strange little book of poems that describes the world of Vittor Crivano, a sixteenth century doctor in Venice involved in the worlds of alchemy and magic. Curtis heads to New Orleans where Stanley is rumored to be, but unfortunately, he is not easy to locate.

Instead, the elusive Stanley takes center stage in a different narrative strand as Seay transports readers to 1950s Los Angeles. Then, Stanley is only sixteen but lives on the streets, surviving as a petty thief, and conman. He has travelled with another young grafter, Claudio, all the way from Brooklyn to L.A. in order to track down Adrian Welles, the author of The Mirror Thief, his favorite book. Stanley hopes that Adrian Welles can help him understand and perhaps even visit the magical world that the book describes, but just when he finds Welles, Stanley's life is complicated by clashes with local gangs and drug dealers.

The third time period in the novel moves even further into the past and across the Atlantic to sixteenth century Venice and centers on Vittor Crivano, the central character in The Mirror Thief, who, according to Welles, was a real historical figure. In Venice, Crivano has been engaged to secretly entice two craftsmen to leave the city and set up as glass and mirror makers in another country. Under Venetian rule, this is a criminal enterprise (see 'Beyond the Book') and Crivano's mission is further complicated when he is distracted by a young novitiate nun. Rich with the sounds, smells and language of the sixteenth century, Crivano's adventures may superficially appear vastly different than the other two narratives, but connections of character, event and even location tie them together.

All three narratives have dark themes and scenes of a violent and or sexual nature, which may not appeal to all readers. The story is complex and at times hard to parse. At one point Crivano reflects that however he "tries to conceive the plot, it refuses to hold a shape and remains formless as a gob of spit," and some readers may feel this equally applies to their reading experience. For those happy to enjoy the ride, however, there is much to enjoy here: a twisting mystery, rich language, metaphysical discourse and allusions and references to medieval texts, philosophy and poetry galore. Seay is clearly a talented and knowledgeable writer who has written a transporting and original novel.

Reviewed by Kate Braithwaite

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in May 2016, and has been updated for the April 2017 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Sixteenth Century Venice

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Debt Trap
    The Debt Trap
    by Josh Mitchell
    The Debt Trap by Josh Mitchell opens up the dialogue for meaningful conversations about a problem ...
  • Book Jacket: Razorblade Tears
    Razorblade Tears
    by S. A. Cosby
    Razorblade Tears, a thriller by S.A. Cosby, follows a pair of ex-convicts who team up to avenge the ...
  • Book Jacket: Once There Were Wolves
    Once There Were Wolves
    by Charlotte McConaghy
    In Charlotte McConaghy's second novel after her debut Migrations, environmental biologist Inti Flynn...
  • Book Jacket: The Secret Keeper of Jaipur
    The Secret Keeper of Jaipur
    by Alka Joshi
    Alka Joshi's The Secret Keeper of Jaipur is the sequel to her 2020 bestseller The Henna Artist and ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
In Every Mirror She's Black
by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom
An arresting debut for anyone looking for insight into what it means to be a Black woman in the world.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Last Chance Library
    by Freya Sampson

    Fans of libraries and heartfelt, humorous fiction won't want to miss this one!

  • Book Jacket

    Blind Man's Bluff
    by James Tate Hill

    A writer's humorous and often-heartbreaking tale of losing his sight—and how he hid it from the world.

Who Said...

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Pull Y U B T B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.