Summary and book reviews of The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay

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

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Set in three cities in three eras, The Mirror Thief calls to mind David Mitchell and Umberto Eco in its mix of entertainment and literary bravado.

The core story is set in Venice in the sixteenth century, when the famed makers of Venetian glass were perfecting one of the old world's most wondrous inventions: the mirror. An object of glittering yet fearful fascination - was it reflecting simple reality, or something more spiritually revealing - the Venetian mirrors were state of the art technology, and subject to industrial espionage by desirous sultans and royals world-wide. But for any of the development team to leave the island was a crime punishable by death. One man, however - a world-weary war hero with nothing to lose - has a scheme he thinks will allow him to outwit the city's terrifying enforcers of the edict, the ominous Council of Ten ...

Meanwhile, in two other Venices - Venice Beach, California, circa 1958, and the Venice casino in Las Vegas, circa today - two other schemers launch similarly dangerous plans to get away with a secret ....

All three stories will weave together into a spell-binding tour-de-force that is impossible to put down - an old-fashioned, stay-up-all-night novel that, in the end, returns the reader to a stunning conclusion in the original Venice ... and the bedazzled sense of having read a truly original and thrilling work of art.

Excerpt
The Mirror Thief

The acolyte lights the candles as the priest opens the book. The long wicks flare, and the image of the Virgin appears in the vault above the apse, her gray form steady against the flickering screen of gold. The glass tesserae of her eyes catch the dim light, and her gaze seems to go everywhere.

The priest's hand moves across the psalter; its thick pages curl and fall. Venite exultemus Domino iubilemus Deo salutari nostro, he intones. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. At the priest's back are the relics of Saint Donatus, along with the bones of the dragon he slew by spitting in its mouth. Overhead, the wooden roof slopes outward like a ship's hull.

Even now, hours before dawn, the basilica is not empty. Solitary figures pass in the aisles: sleepless fishermen, glassblowers between shifts, veiled widows impatient for Christ's return. Some kneel and mutter prayers. In the narthex...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The Mirror Thief takes place in three different locations, all of which are named Venice. This seems to indicate that in addition to being a setting for the plot, the concept of "Venice" animates the novel as an idea in itself. What is this idea?
  2. The word "Venice" never actually appears anywhere in The Mirror Thief, despite the fact that it is quite obviously set in three different places named Venice. What could be the significance of this? Why would the author refrain from using the name of the locations?
  3. What is the role of magic in the novel? Is it actual magic, or just implied? Is the magic – whether the sense of magic, or actual magic --- limited to the part of the story set in 16th century Venice setting, or is it in the ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • 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 $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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... 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).

Full Review (551 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Seay's great challenge is to bind these talky stories together, which he does to varying degrees of success; often the story seems an exercise in stringing together index-card notes on various arcane subjects, and while the book is well-written and admirable in the ambition of its scope, it still feels undercooked. Entertaining enough, if less a hall of mirrors than a house of cards.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A true delight, a big, beautiful cabinet of wonders that is by turns an ominous modern thriller, a supernatural mystery, and an enchanting historical adventure story...A splendid masterpiece, to be loved like a long-lost friend, an epic with near-universal appeal.

Booklist
Starred Review. Grandly entrancing...Shimmering with intimations of Hermann Hesse, Umberto Eco, and David Mitchell, Sheay's house-of-mirrors novel is spectacularly accomplished and exciting.

Reader Reviews

Lynda A Abshire

Long but Fascinating Read
When I began this book, I had no idea of its length, but it kept me intrigued for days. The very idea of these three related stories, all in a locale with Venice as its name, but not the same locale was clever. The characters I became very fond of ...   Read More

P.J. Barry

Reflections on the Mirror Thief
Martin Seay's "The Mirror Thief" is an ambitious telling of three separate but inter-related tales. The stories take place in three Venices: the Italian city in 1592, the California city in 1958, and a hotel of that name in Las Vegas in ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • 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 $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Sixteenth Century Venice

The history of Venice begins with the end of the Roman Empire at around 400 A.D. As Roman rule collapsed across Europe groups of Huns, Barbarians and Goths disrupted communities, and on the north-eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea people sought safety from Attila the Hun in the shallow islands of the Venetian Lagoon. With two or three miles of water separating them from mainland Italy, early Venetian settlers were safe from enemies who had no knowledge of seafaring. By 726 A.D. these resourceful people had elected their first doge (duke). Successive doges ruled Venice for the next 1000 years.

In the centuries that followed, Venice became a center for trade, architecture and artistry. Exploiting the seafaring skills of its inhabitants, ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • 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 $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Mirror Thief, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • 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 $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Educated
    Educated
    by Tara Westover
    Voted 2018 Best Nonfiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    Tara Westover had the kind of ...
  • Book Jacket: Circe
    Circe
    by Madeline Miller
    Voted 2018 Best Fiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    Towards the end of Madeline Miller...
  • Book Jacket: Children of Blood and Bone
    Children of Blood and Bone
    by Tomi Adeyemi
    Voted 2018 Best Young Adult Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    What would you do if, in a ...
  • Book Jacket: Where the Crawdads Sing
    Where the Crawdads Sing
    by Delia Owens
    Voted 2018 Best Debut Novel Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    Where the Crawdads Sing was a ...

See all Award Winners & Top 20

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Unsheltered
by Barbara Kingsolver

A timely novel that explores the human capacity for resiliency and compassion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Listen to the Marriage
    by John Jay Osborn

    The story of a couple in trouble and an exploration of the obstacles we put in our own way.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The 7 ½ Deaths of
Evelyn Hardcastle

"Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day...quite unlike anything I've ever read." - A. J. Finn

Enter

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay: $400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

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 books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.