The Mirror of Her Dreams - the first half of Mordant's Need
Mordant is a kingdom where mirrors function as magical devices capable of viewing other worlds and the Imagers that craft them have the power to translate both the objects and people they see in those mirrors into their own world. Imagers spend years expertly crafting their mirrors to achieve many powerful abilities, both good and evil, but one thing they always avoid making is a flat mirror. That is because anyone who sees their own reflection in a flat mirror, or attempts a translation in one, loses their mind. Imagers are also capable of performing auguries by shattering a mirror into pieces. The resulting shards of the mirror reveal glimpses of the future, although the resulting images are often subject to multiple interpretations. The Congery of Mordant has performed just such an augury and from the resulting images the Masters have concluded that a champion must be translated to save their kingdom from destruction. They have also seen that Apt Geraden, an expendable apprentice of little promise, should be the one to perform that translation. When Geraden enters the mirror to perform the translation he returns not with the expected champion but rather with Terisa Morgan, who he plucked right out of her Manhattan apartment building.
Mordant is sandwiched between two enemies that are both prepping for war against and yet the King is not preparing Mordant for war. In fact his strict rules even prevent the Congery from directly fighting as using Imagery as a weapon is not allowed and the Imagers may not translate anyone to Mordant against their will. These restrictions cause a lot of tension to develop and when King Joyce also refuses to rally his forces to defend Mordant in a more traditional way then things start to fall apart. Many factions start to form potential alliances with each other and when Mordant is finally invaded by both enemies it is unclear who can and can't be trusted. Terisa Morgan, who feels rather lost in this strange world, is viewed by many as having a key role to play in the upcoming events and even considered to be the needed champion by some. In reality though, she is just a fish out of water trying to sort out what is going on in a world with magical mirrors.
A person from our reality that is transported to another world where magic is a reality has become a trope at this point, and it is certainly not new territory for Donaldson. Unlike The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and The Gap Cycle this story is not as dark and rape is not core to the story, although there is no shortage of sexual harassment. Donaldson usually does a good job of making me care about his characters, either through love or hate, but that didn't happen this time. I did, however, find the magic system to be compelling so I stuck with it to the end in the hopes that things would eventually change. They didn't. The story was full of intrigue and scheming but by the time it was over I still didn't care too much about the characters and who would come out on top. The interesting magic system was just enough for me to pick up the second book so I will soon find out if this half a story eventually turns out to be a worthy investment of time or not.
The audiobook version is narrated by the veteran Scott Brick and although he isn't my favorite narrator his work is solid and his performance here is a good one. He is a good fit for Donaldson's writing style.