Author: Sean Hogan
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Note: Sean M. Hogan is a friend from my writing group The Pendragons.
Ages ago, Eric, a warrior and a man of faith, saves a boy on the eve of war--and sets himself on a path of sin, power, and destruction.
In our world, a social misfit named Sharon Ashcroft has never forgiven her father for abandoning her. After a wretched first day in a new high school, she follows a strange crow to an old house where a mysterious mirror lurks in the basement. But this mirror is more than it appears--a portal to another realm.
In the pink-skyed world of Tuat, pig-runs war with humans under the rule of a lizard god, a boy with clown make-up and red eyes conspires with a cloaked man, and endless winter consumes the land--except at the pyramid of life. Thrust into the center of the discord, Sharon finds she's become a valuable pawn that everyone is desperate to get their hands on. Who can she trust? How will she find her way home?
To survive, this lost girl must find the strength to know what she believes in.
Sean M. Hogan has created an epic fantasy with dark overtones that spans different worlds, eras, and cultures. The world building on display is fantastic. Myths and magic tease at the start of the story, but it is when Sharon finally enters Tuat that the book picks up the pace. In addition to vivid imagery and beautiful prose, the book is anchored by a thread of philosophy that runs deep through the book, as characters discuss faith and doubt, reality and illusion, and the nature of the soul.
My biggest issue with dark fantasy is that it can easily become too bleak, but I didn't have that problem here, mainly because Sean M. Hogan infuses his book with characters I can root for. My stand out favorite was Michelle Lionmane (who also stars in Sean M. Hogan's novella The Marauder), who is easily one of the most heroic characters in the book. But I also found myself sympathizing with the pig-runs, goblin pig hybrids, and their lizard god, Khaba. Although they appeared to play role of the nameless barbarian hoards, they actually have their own reasons for fighting in the war, which I found refreshing and compelling.
The weakest point for me was the Eric chapters. Although he and Sharon are definitely connected, their stories never really align. Unlike Sharon, whose chapters move in chronological order, Eric jumps back and forth in time, making it difficult for me to follow his character arc. Many questions are raised, but there are few definitive answers.
The ending of The Crow Behind the Mirror absolutely blew me away. In the last chapter, events from throughout the book are re-interpreted, themes fall into place, and Sharon is forced to make a decision about who she is and who she wants to be. It was amazing.
The Crow Behind the Mirror is a must for anyone who loves dark fantasy and epic worlds.