Friday, 15 April 2016

Richard Reviews Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors by H.L. Burke

The author of this book has kindly offered an e-copy (Kindle or epub) of Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors to one lucky reader. To be in with a chance to win, just leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.
The draw will be announced about a week after this post.

Cover - Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors
Cover - Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors
I read Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors, by H.L. Burke, on the recommendation of a friend and am very glad to have done so: I really enjoyed this story.

The plot follows a young lady - Nyssa, of course - through a series of exploits as she tries to extricate herself from being unjustly accused of murder. Her background is dubious enough to make the accusation likely to be believed, but she is determined to deserve the trust of her employer Mr Calloway, and her former teachers at Miss Pratchett's School for Mechanically Minded Maids. This determination keeps her going through puzzles, dangers, and difficulties.

On the surface, her basic task seems clear - find a way into a seemingly abandoned house and retrieve a missing item. But inevitably things are not so simple. The house turns out to be well-defended, although the protective systems are overdue for servicing and overhaul, and it is not so empty as it seems at first sight...

"A little over four years ago, all traffic in and out of Dalhart Manor ceased. Up until that point, Dalhart had been reclusive, but his staff and son were often seen going about their business. Then one day, half the staff was unexpectedly let go, and the remaining half..."

The action takes place almost entirely within a single day - barring some necessary flashbacks and a brief "what followed" section - but it is easy to forget the shortness of the timespan as you are carried along with the action. You reach the end of the book feeling that you have come to learn a great deal about her, owing to the intensity of her experiences.

"Once you start scraping away at the puzzle of that house, you won't be able to stop until you've excavated its last secret."

Hall of mirror, Palace of Versailles (Wiki)
Hall of mirror, Palace of Versailles (Wiki)
A recurring theme of the book is the question of who Nyssa can rely on. Sometimes she makes the wrong decision, and finds herself having to work out how to undo the difficulties resulting from this. Her life experiences have not disposed her to be particularly trusting, and suspicion of motives easily rises to the surface of her thoughts. But the ongoing need to work out who is dependable and who is fickle is a major thread of the book, and one which several of the characters grapple with. The answers to these questions shift multiple times through the book as various facts and snippets of background become clear.

"Did I just turn on the security system? That has to be the biggest blunder in the history of cat burglary."

The author's chosen style is most like Steampunk, though with her own personal spin on the conventions of that genre which worked well for me. The level of scientific and technological accomplishment was a perfect complement to Nyssa's skills and abilities. Both feel entirely credible and I was fully immersed in the tale. I particularly liked the approach towards mechanical intelligence was handled - a very different route to our society's, or indeed what I choose for my own writing - but it is a persuasive and compelling alternative. There is a point where curious enquiry of possibilities gives way to the horrified realisation of reality, and this is handled particularly well.

"Please, someone... no, professor, no. It's not what I want. It's not right..."

House of Mirrors is a YA novel and the personal interactions reflect this. However, this should not deter anyone, and there is ample interest and character depth to satisfy an adult reader.

The cast of characters is comparatively small, and the end of the book strongly suggests that other books set in this world will follow in the future. I certainly hope so, and will be looking out for them.

Meanwhile, Mrs Burke has written a number of other YA fantasy novels, often with a dragonish theme.

About the author:
H.L. Burke
H.L. Burke
Born in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic.

An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture.

Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are - currently in southern California. She has written twelve books in speculative genres, ranging from Epic Fantasy to YA Steampunk.

Find out more at her web siteblog, on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

About the reviewer:
Richard Abbott lives in London, England. He writes science fiction about our solar system in the fairly near future, and also historical fiction set in the ancient Middle East - Egypt, Syria, Canaan and Israel.

When not writing words or computer code, he enjoys spending time with family, walking, and wildlife, ideally combining all three pursuits in the English Lake District. He is the author of In a Milk and Honeyed LandScenes From a LifeThe Flame Before Us - and most recently Far from the Spaceports. He can be found at his website or blog, on Google+GoodreadsFacebook and Twitter.


  1. It sounds a really interesting book.

  2. Fabulous review Richard. This book looks very steam punk, a genre I've not tried yet. Would love to win a copy!

  3. I've read it and loved it! Just waiting for the movie as I think it would be an excellent one!

    1. I agree! There is enough detail of the world that a sensitive film-maker could do a lot with this

  4. Good review mate and the book sounds enthralling...

  5. Good review mate and the book sounds enthralling...

  6. Yu make it sound like it's time to make more space on my favrites book shelf.

  7. Good review of an interesting book - thank you