Book Review: Broken Wish by Julie C. Dao

Julie C. Dao sets the bar high with Broken Wish, a stunning and skillful introduction to the world of The Mirror, Disney's new fractured fairy-tale series written by four different authors that follows a family curse through the ages.

The Mirror: Broken Wish by Julie C. Dao cover
The Mirror: Broken Wish by Julie C. Dao cover

In the mid 19th century, a young couple move to the small village of Hanau, Germany looking for a fresh start. When local gossip indicates that their newly-befriended reclusive neighbor Mathilda is the fearsome witch of the North Woods, in order to preserve their social standing they decide to break their promise and end the friendship -- but only after getting her help to have children after a long struggle with infertility.

Years later, 16 year old Elva has a terrifying vision and decides to seek out Mathilda, hoping for help in controlling her ability as well as a way to prevent her vision from coming true. Along the way, in the witch’s old cottage, she finds an enchanted mirror that was left behind when Mathilda moved.

Over time, Elva learns more about magic and forms a strong bond with Mathilda, coming to see her as a sort of aunt. When Elva’s concern for her family leads to another broken promise, she inadvertently sets a catastrophic chain of events in motion.

“There’s power in a promise, no matter who you make it to. The most powerful are made when magic is involved. If you break one of those promises, you release its energy into the world.”

As with Dao’s previous books, this story is beautifully written. However, it was a little slow in the beginning so it took a bit longer for me to get into it than I expected, but the backstory was integral to the plot so I’m not really complaining.

Social interactions and the relationships between characters feature prominently throughout the book; it's through these that the author tackles themes such as bullying, prejudicial behavior, and emotional manipulation. I'll refrain from going into detail in the interest of avoiding spoilers but there's plenty here for readers to unpack and think about.

It was refreshing to see that the somewhat unorthodox friendship between Elva and Mathilda was the primary focus, as opposed to the more common romantic entanglements typically seen in fairytales. That's not to say that there's no romance at all, only that it isn't central to the plot.

Overall, Broken Wish is an incredibly solid start to what is sure to be an exceptional series. Dao deftly weaves a spellbinding tale exploring the dichotomy of deep friendship and family loyalty, the inherent power of words spoken and promises made, and how fear of the future can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC! All opinions are my own.**

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