This is, in fact, the longest review I have ever written at 1.6k words. If you want a shorter version: you must read this book. That’s it. Otherwise, get some coffee, tea, booze, or snacks, and enjoy my rambling.
Somewhere in the middle of my read through Beyond Redemption, I knew I had to drop any planned reading in my schedule and continue to the sequel immediately. I’m glad I did because this was one of the best reading experiences I’ve ever had in the genre. When I stumble upon a fantastic book, I always try to savor and stretch my reading time as long as possible. If I fail to do this, it means that the book is so good that it ended up overpowering my will. I ended up finishing The Mirror’s Truth in less than two days, so go figure.
Fletcher has improved upon all the groundwork he established previously in Beyond Redemption. The plot is a direct continuation of what happened at the end of the previous book. Bedeckt, who defines himself by his list of crimes that he’s committed to avoiding, strayed once from that commitment. The Mirror’s Truth revolves around the aftermath of that decision and the chaos it spawned. While the scope of the plot isn’t as epic as before, it’s equally amazing; maybe even more so in a different way because this time, the plot is more character driven. Even with the changes in the narrative direction, the book is still filled with a myriad of madness, manipulations, violence, and intriguing philosophies. It’s also more brutal, engaging, and surprisingly, more poignant than before. Combined with a well-balanced pacing and the growing tension that accumulated with each page turned, the story eventually reached an intricate, unforgettable, emotional tornado of clashing delusions that left me completely breathless. The conclusion of this book is one of the best conclusions to a book I’ve ever read; the sheer brilliance of it is simply indisputable.
One of the biggest challenges in dark fantasies is to create lovable characters despite their morally gray code, especially in cases like this series, where characters tend to be evil and sociopathic. I believe that no one in this world is completely good: not me, not you, not anyone. We have all done some bad things and made mistakes we wish we could take back. The same goes for ‘evil’ characters; I believe that deep inside them, there could be still a sliver of goodness. I’m not trying to be pessimistic. That’s humanity, and it’s realistic. In a way, that’s the point of dark fantasy and why I love the genre. Fletcher nailed this situation with the accuracy of a sniper. As the book shifted its narration to a character-driven style, we get to explore more of these deranged characters thoughts and sense of longing, especially for the main trio. The stupendous characters' development is one of the aspects that truly made this book superior from its predecessor.
The world-building also significantly improved. If Fletcher had stuck with what he made in Beyond Redemption, honestly I would’ve been okay with it. However, he instead made it even better with more Geisteskranken (The Delusional) appearances — I mean c'mon, there’s even a DRAGON! Look at the book cover, a dragon! — and exploration of Afterdeath. The exposition of Afterdeath and how it influenced and affected the real world is truly amazing; it’s like we have two worlds to explore rather than one. Don’t even get me started on the Mirror elements, which I could gush about, but I strongly believe it’s something that you have to truly experience for yourself.
From my past experiences in the genre, a lot of grimdark authors tended to have prose that’s more flowery than flowers themselves. I personally dislike that. Sometimes, the words aren’t even necessary other than to make the sentences sound ‘cooler’. It ruins the flow of the book for me when I have to think “what the hell is the author is trying to say?” or looked at the dictionary repeatedly. Doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing at all; I just feel that there should be a line on this because anything that’s too much isn’t good. Fletcher’s prose isn’t like that all. No words are wasted, everything is crucial, and yet it’s addictive, immersive, and easy to access. That said, considering that The Mirror’s Truth is indie, I did find some typos throughout my read. Typos never bother my reading experience unless it’s out of control, and that’s why it won’t affect my overall assessment; I’m just letting you know that there are some here. I also love how each chapter almost always starts with a philosophical passage that’s essential to the atmosphere and background of the mad world. This one, in particular, is my favorite:
“We are each living a story. What many of us are too afraid to admit is that we are the authors of our story. You are living the life you chose for yourself. You are living the result of each and every one of your choices. If you are letting others make decisions for you, you are allowing them to write your story. Do they have your best interests at heart? If you are unhappy, whose fault is that? Don’t like your life, go write yourself a better one.”
Finally, I want to address the aesthetic factors and production value. Unlike Beyond Redemption, The Mirror’s Truth is self-published, there’s a reason for this but it’s too long for me to explain here. You can read about it in the acknowledgment section, or even just ask the author about it. Don’t let this fact discourage you, though. Beyond Redemption has a cool cover; it was drawn by one of my favorite artists, Richard Anderson, but, it honestly didn’t capture the madness of the world. The Mirror’s Truth book cover was done by a different artist and let me just says that it’s pure badassery and it fully captured what Fletcher envisioned in the world he created.
Then we also have the matter of materials. Self-published trade paperbacks somehow seem to have better materials than what big publishing companies use. The Books of Babel from Josiah Bancroft — which I possess — along with this book justify my reasoning. The papers used are smooth and thin. The ink glistens as if it was just printed, which made my reading experience even better. They also look wet under the light if you’re looking at it from the right angle. If all books published by big publishing company were the same superb quality, I can guarantee you I wouldn’t be reading from e-books, ever.
To do a tiny bit of comparison in overall quality: this series, just judging from the two available books, are in my opinion better than all books written by Mark Lawrence, Brian Staveley, and Scott Lynch, and I’ve read all of them before I saying this. The fact that The Mirror’s Truth is self-published makes this even crazier and is why I will do everything I can to make sure everyone notices and reads this book. You can thank me or send me hate mail later but please, give it a try first.
Honestly speaking, dark fantasy is one of my favorite genres, especially in manga. However, I’ve been disappointed a lot with grimdark novels. There are some great ones for sure, but none ever made it into my "favorites of all time" shelves so far except for Abercrombie’s books; however, Fletcher did it twice in succession with this series. Joe Abercrombie has always been one of my favorite authors, and he still is. I crowned him as the best Grimdark author of all time (but do note that I haven’t read Malazan yet at the time of writing this review so I can’t say anything for Steven Erikson). Now I finally have someone on my list that can share that throne with him.
There will be more standalone novels taking place in the same world, like Swarm and Steel which was just released yesterday and which I’ll be reading next; there will also be one more book to conclude this series. This means the Manifest Delusions main series will be a trilogy. Whatever the future holds, Fletcher will have my full support not only because I need more, but because the world of fantasy needs more of the originality that he can deliver. I know everyone who has read this series will agree with me that if there’s an author that deserves our support, Fletcher is that author. With The Mirror’s Truth, Manifest Delusions has already cemented its quality as one of the best dark fantasies series I’ve ever read, along with The First Law series by Joe Abercrombie, and at the same time, is the number one most underrated series I’ve ever read. The Mirror’s Truth is a sequel manifested from a mixture of superlative imagination and genuine talent that every fan of the genre must read. I absolutely recommend this book with all my heart, brain, and delusions.
There’s no excuse here. The only reason you should not read this book is if you’re dead, in which case you’ll still find me enslaving everyone to read this book from the Afterdeath. Mwahahahahaha!! Pardon me, that was my doppelganger speaking, I’ll shut him up now. Seriously though, read this book.