Summary and book reviews of The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay

The Mirror Thief

by Martin Seay

The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay
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  • First Published:
    May 2016, 592 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2017, 592 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite

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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 ...
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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).

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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

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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, ...

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