Mirror of Destiny

~ A Novel in the Five Senses Series (Sight) by Andre Norton



Synopsis ~

Write-up from the front flap of the 1995 dustjacket ~

The industrial Monster has descended upon Varslaad, devouring all the arable land in its path. And now, by royal decree, the displaced must turn westward toward the mountains... venturing into the perilous woodland domain of a strange and secret race.
Once again, ANDRE NORTON displays her unparalleled imagination and astonishing storytelling abilities to present a unique and unforgettable fantasy that is at once a breathtaking magical adventure, and a cautionary fable for our time.
The King's lottery has determined that young Twilla must marry——for only the wedded can survive the terrible fate awaiting those who penetrate the primeval forest. An orphaned apprentice to a renowned wisewoman, Twilla will not proceed unprotected, however. For she carries on her journey a talisman of great power...an astonishing artifact that obscures and illuminates, that alters appearance and perception.
But it alone cannot guard Twilla—as she weaves her way from peril to peril in the company of Ylon, a commander's son tragically blinded by a forgotten sorcery. For the hidden peoples who inhabit the wood are also armed—possessing mystical weapons of the body, mind and spirit that they will freely wield to repel an unwanted human invasion.
Now two armies prepare to do battle—and only Twilla can avert the impending bloody hostilities. For only she can rescue the vanquished of an ancient war of magicks...and shape the destiny of a disputed land.


Write-up from the back of the paperback edition ~

The Industrial Monster has descended upon Varslaad, devouring all the arable land in its path. By royal decree, the displaced must venture into the treacherous woodland domain of a strange and secret race.

The King's lottery has determined that Twilla, young, orphaned apprentice of a renowned wise woman, must marry -- for only the wedded can survive the terrible fate awaiting those who penetrate the primeval forest. Altered by a talisman of great power, she escapes her unwanted lot -- joining a commander's tragically blinded son on a remarkable journey from peril to peril. For they are the chosen who must rescue the vanquished of an ancient war of magic’s. . . and shape the destiny of a bloody, disputed land.


Write-ups from fans ~

the Maid hunt sweeps through the kingdom of Varsland, gathering up any un-betrothed girl to be sent off to be a bride to some stranger in Varsland's New frontier land. The land's produce is desperately needed at home, so men must go there. For some reason a single man is at risk so they need wives, and the homeland will supply them. One such girl -- an apprentice -- though not formally listed as such, is swept up in this Maid-hunt and sent off to the new land. Married by lot to the Commander's cruel second son, she escapes with the First Son and has to end the curse on the land. ~ SL


In Varslaad, strip mining has ruined most of the farmland. The king sends a colony across the mountains to grow food. Some of their numbers are sent to the huge forest to get wood. There, some encounter the beings who live to protect the trees. These men return to the colony witless or blinded. Somehow it is discovered that married men are immune from the magics of the forest people. So, the king orders his troops to gather all the young maids (limit 1 per family) and send them over mountain to be brides.
Twilla, healer and apprentice to a Wisewoman is surprised when she is chosen as a bride. She secretly carries a powerful talisman- a silver magical mirror that she is only beginning to learn how to use. Using its power, she devises an escape from her predicament with the aid of Ylon, the tragically blinded son of the colony's commander. They escape to the forest where they meet the leader (Oxyle) and the evil woman (Lotis) who ensorcelled Ylon. She refuses to free Ylon and due to their laws, only the spellcaster can remove his or her spell.
Wandering around, she goes through a hidden doorway and discovers a race of Underpeople (dwarves) turned to stone. Using her mirror, she frees them and and they reveal that they had been imprisoned by an ancient evil forest lord. Twilla acts as a go-between for the Forest Folk and the Underpeople, and forges an alliance against the humans who have fallen under power of an evil sorcerer.
This is a long story (394pgs) and filled with powers, counter spells, fights, intrigue and all kinds of fascinating creatures, real and illusionary. Twilla's knowledge grows with every use of the mirror, and she learns the ways of Power. ~ PG


Reviews ~

Kirkus Reviews ~ Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995
   Apprentice healer Twilla, carrying nothing but her magic mirror, is forcibly transported to the Far Lands to wed a settler chosen by lot, according to the king's decree. Hoping to deflect potential suitors, Twilla uses her mirror magic to disguise herself as a plague victim. But the trick backfires when her allotted husband rejects her in revulsion and expresses the intention of having her raped. So, Twilla must flee along with Ylon, the son of Far Lands ruler Lord Harmond, now magically blinded and a despised nonentity through the ill will of the forest folk. Yet only in that same forest will the pair be safe from pursuit. There, good forest dweller Oxyle gives Twilla a guarded welcome, but evil forester Lotis threatens her and re-enslaves poor Ylon. Later, Twilla uses her mirror magic to free a company of dwarves, ensorcelled 1,000 years ago in the under forest by a wicked mage. Lotis, it emerges, has reacquired much of this ancient, evil knowledge, and also has made a deal with a Dandus priest--they practice human sacrifice and now dominate Lord Harmond's people. So, Twilla must create an alliance capable of defeating Lotis. Somewhat long and at times overcomplicated, but mostly refreshing and inviting: a certain audience-pleaser from the grand- masterly author of The Hands of Lyr (1994), etc. 


Review by Publishers Weekly ~ Feb. 27, 1995

Spunky female characters who use their magical powers to engender compassionate resolutions in male-dominated societies have long been one of Norton's (The Hands of Lyr) staples. This prime example of that winning formula introduces 18-year-old orphan Twilla, who, apprenticed to Wise-Woman Hulde, has learned the healing arts and been given a silver mirror to focus her powers. After soldiers seize Twilla and take her to the Far Lands, she is forced into a bridal lottery. Before her distraught fiancé can arrange her rescue, Twilla joins forces with blinded Ylon. They journey to a dangerous forest where unmarried males are blinded (as was Ylon), driven mad or destroyed. There Twilla matches wills with the beautiful but wicked Lotis, an enchantress who gains her powers from the forest's great trees. Lotis has joined forces with the Dandus priests, an evil human sect that practices blood sacrifices. Ylon and Twilla also encounter underground dwellers who control the rich region's metals and minerals. Twilla must discover her inner strength to aid Ylon by restoring his vision and thus his sense of manhood. She also needs to find ways to heal the rifts among the forest dwellers, the underground miners and the human farmers. This tall order is classic Norton.


Various reviews ~ For more info and other listings see Articles Over the Years

1995 by Carolyn Cushman in Locus #410, March
1996 by Graham Andrews in Vector #190
2019 by Judith Tarr


Bibliography of English Editions ~

  • (1995) Published by Morrow AvoNova, HC, 0-688-13988-4, $22.00, 394pg ~ cover by Matt Stawicki {Maroon Paper Boards, Yellow Cloth Spine, # 14A6 on Rear of Dust Jacket}
  • (1995) Published by SFBC, HC, # 07786, $10.98, 284pg ~ cover by Matt Stawicki {Black Paper Boards & Spine, No coding in Copyright Page}
  • (1996) Published by AvoNova, PB, 0-380-77976-5, $5.99, 394pg ~ cover by Matt Stawicki
  • (2012) Published by Premier Digital Publishing, eISBN 978-1-938582-29-5, DM, $3.99 ~ cover by Kib Prestridge
  • (2014) Published by Open Road Media, eISBN 978-1-497656-45-1, DM, $3.99, 404pg ~ cover by Kib Prestridge


Non-English Editions ~

  • (1997) Published in Warsaw, Poland; by Amber, 83-716-9478-4, 288pg ~ translation by Wojciech Szypuła ~ cover by Mark Harrison ~ Polish title Zwierciadło Przeznaczenia [Mirror of Destiny]
  • (2002) Published in Moscow, by Eksmo and St. Petersburg, by Valerie SPD, 5-699-01645-7 and 5-814-20122-3, HC, 544pg ~ cover by Paul Yull ~ translation by E. Shestakova ~ Russian title Зеркало судьбы [Mirror of Fate]
  • (2017) Published in Moscow, by Eksmo, 978-5-699-92889-7, PB, 576pg ~ translation by E. Shestakova ~ Russian title Зеркало судьбы [Mirror of Fate] ~ Limited to 3000 copies


Russian Omnibus Editions ~

  • (2013) Published in Moscow by Eksmo, 9785699681051, HC, 672pgs ~ cover art by A. Dubovik ~ Russian title Зов Лиры [Call of Lyr] ~ Limited to 5200 copies


    • "The Hands of Lyr" as "Call of Lyra" ~ translation by I. Nepochatova, pp. 5-226
    • "Mirror of Destiny" as "Mirror of Fate" ~ translation by E. Shestakova, pp. 227-669

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