Caragh M. O’Brien-The Rule of Mirrors

Themes Explored: identity, existence, life, ethics, morality, split-personality, pregnancy, familial relationships, romantic entanglements, mystery, intrigue,  dreams, boarding school, reality television, reality

Synopsis: At the remote, exclusive Chimera Centre, families of coma patients come from all over the world seeking miracles. When Althea Flores wakes up from a six-month coma, her recovery defies the limits of hope and science—except she can’t remember anything about her own life. Instead, she has all the memories of Rosie Sinclair, the missing Forge Show star, and she’s pregnant.

Far from the Chimera Centre, in a secret vault, the sleeping body of Rosie Sinclair is captive to the doctors who mine her dreams. Heavily sedated, Rosie struggles to awaken and manipulate her keeper for a chance to escape. She knows what she’ll do once she’s free—wreak vengeance on Dean Berg, the man who stole her dreams and turned her life into a nightmare.

Told in alternating points of view between the girl who has Rosie’s consciousness in a new, pregnant body, and the girl whose shattered subconscious rules Rosie’s old body, the second installment of The Vault of Dreamers trilogy is an intricate, psychologically thrilling novel about layers of identity, what lies in the mirror, and the link between body and soul. (Adapted from Good reads)

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Review: The Rule of Mirrors is the second book in The Vault of Dreamers Trilogy.  I previously reviewed the first book here. In this fictional dystopian world, The Forge School is a world renown arts school that films it students for a reality television show. Think something similar to The Truman Show, only everyone is there voluntarily. Underneath the glitz and the wonder, a diabolical system of dram mining exists. All students are drugged at night and forced to sleep in pods in order to “rejuvenate” their creative process. As reveled in the first book, all the students’ dreams are mined at night, though some students’ dreams are more valuable than others. How this mining system works is never fully explained. Rosie Sinclair, the heroine, was continually mined for dreams and, eventually, forcibly removed from The Forge School and placed in the secret vault of dreamers. The Rule of Mirrors begins with Rosie regaining consciousness in the vault.

Rosie awakens to discover that a part of her is missing; her still small voice is gone. Parts of her mind are completely lost due to extensive dream mining. Her body is wasting away due to lack of physical activity and proper nutrition. She is given only the bare minimum to keep her body functioning while in an extended sleeping state.  However, she gains a chance at freedom when an error in dosage causes her to wake for a chance meeting with Ian, a lonely orderly who develops an obsessive crush on her. Rosie rightfully suspicious of him, but he is her only chance at freedom. So she manipulates her feelings to her advantage. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, the missing part of Rosie awakens in the body of a pregnant, comatose teenager named Althea. Recovering from a deadly accident, Althea’s parents bought Rosie’s dreams in a last ditch effort to bring their daughter back to life. However, they received more than bargained for, because it is Rosie who awakens not Althea. This stranger’s life is one of wealth, a loving family, an estranged boyfriend, and the third trimester pregnancy. Despite extreme uneasiness about her new reality, Rosie is determined to save her previous body, rescue all the captive dreamers, and to reconnect with Linus, her old boyfriend. Trying to balance two complicated romantic story lines sometimes cripples the plot flow; however, there is a decent amount of intrigue and a slow building narrative tension. Like all trilogies, the book ends on a cliffhanger.

Identity is the main theme of this book and how the dream seeds impact the dreamer and the recipient. The Rule of Mirrors begins with the realization that Rosie’s consciousness has been split into two halves. This allowed the author to explore the two different parts of her personality, viewing the “id” and the “ego” of someone’s identity as two separate entities. Althea, the brain dead teenage, was given the rational side of Rosie’s brain. When Rosie awakens, she struggles to fit into preassigned expectations and behaviors. Althea’s parents expect their saved “daughter” to act like her old self, they were not expecting the headstrong Rosie. The other half of the story deals with the “real” Rosie, i.e. her original body containing her more calculating half. She has to all her wits to outmaneuver Ian, her personal orderly who believe that he is entitled to keep her in captivity for his own personal amusement. The narrative hints that he may have been taking some liberties with Rosie’s body while she was sedated.

This was an interesting way to explore split personalities, quite literally. However, I found the Althea/Thea part of the story more compelling than the original Rosie narrative. Falling asleep as a sixteen year old and waking up the body of a pregnant nineteen year old must be a jarring experience. Thea is the identity Rosie takes to try and separate herself from the real Althea. When she awakens she makes it know to Althea family that she is not their daughter, but they brush off her concerns and tell her that she merely confused. What makes a person unique? How does a person change when part of their identity is ripped away? I wish the author had explored this a bit more deeply, Thea came across as slightly whiny a few too many times. Also, prepare for the weirdest “love” quadrangle ever. Thea has a boyfriend, but is still in love with Lucas because she is actually Rosie. The actual Rosie is still in love with Lucas; and Lucas is just plain confused. On top of it all, the Rosie character is a lot more angst ridden and unhinged in this installment. Though, i guess that is justifiable give that half her identity has been ripped out. 

Overall, this was a solid second book in the planned trilogy. I think the first book had a much stronger narrative. However, this installment did add some unique elements and upped the ante intrigue wise. If you enjoyed the first book, you will probably find the second one compelling. 

The Rule of Mirrors, Roaring Brook Press, 2016, ISBN: 9781596439405

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Life of Chaz

Welcome to My Life

The Renegade Press

Tales from the mouth of a wolf

What's She Reading?

Because the only thing better than reading is more reading.

Unabashedly Poetic

A blog about life

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