Book Title: Backward Glass (Standalone)
Author: David Lomax
Number of pages: 315
Crack your head, knock you dead, then Prince Harming’s hunger’s fed.
It’s 1977, and Kenny Maxwell is dreading the move away from his friends. But then, behind the walls of his family’s new falling-apart Victorian home, he finds something incredible–a mummified baby and a note: “Help me make it not happen, Kenny. Help me stop him.”
Shortly afterwards, a beautiful girl named Luka shows up. She introduces Kenny to the backward glass, a mirror that allows them to travel through time. Meeting other “mirror kids” in the past and future is exciting, but there’s also danger. The urban legend of Prince Harming, who kidnaps and kills children, is true–and he’s hunting them. When Kenny gets stranded in the past, he must find the courage to answer a call for help, change the fate of a baby–and confront his own destiny.
(re: Goodreads @ Backward Glass by David Lomax)
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr spoiler-less review:
- If time-travelling is your niche, this is a pretty stellar read.
- A suspenseful, thought-provoking literary piece that will have you trying to fit the pieces of a puzzle.
- Characters are generally relatable and can be rooted for.
- Definite information overload (and voids) at times that with persistence will come full circle; hard work pays off.
What the (expletive goes here) am I reading?
That was me with this book. And by no means is this a bad thing. Nah. I was totally reeling in how intricate all the pieces ended up fitting together in this narrative. Everything was definitely thought through: from the nuances in dialogue to the historical inclusions (c’mon, this dude referenced Star Wars and Nintendo—so many feels, and yes I classify these as historical. Problem?). So for his debut novel (at least I think so) Backward Glass is great for all the right reasons.
Honestly though, I felt like I was reading some sci-fi mystery with tinges of Criminal Minds going on: having to profile the shit out of everyone and everything all for a long deceased baby. But wait, time traveling, changing history; all that good stuff to start the whirlwind of Kenny’s mission and by proxy the plot. So despite many aspects being cryptic and seemingly confusing at times, the journey was quite thought-provoking. But I’d like to think that it was value-added to the story telling so all my grief in note taking was well worth it.
Enough about the overall, let’s start with the basics:
The opening line in the synopsis is so eerie to me; it’s (another expletive goes here) children’s rhyme. That is just dandy. Imagine if you heard that while walking through a porcelain doll shop (in a child’s voice no less). I’d shit myself. The rest of the synopsis presented itself to me like the childhood television show: ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?” which is awesome in its own right. The spook and thrilling factor was enough to get me to pick this book up. And then it begins with a page of (time-travel) rules that provided no context but hit all the marks of intrigue and confusion that essentially pulls you right into this story.
It’s pretty difficult to review this novel without giving away too many spoilers, but I’ll try my best despite not having too many issues with this well crafted novel.
Let me elaborate on all of this:
Disclaimer: Potential spoilers inherent to this review from here onward.
Let me start off by saying that on a more personal note, when the prologue introduced Scarborough and Toronto, I was gasping in excitement at the proximity of the world building. Course, I didn’t stalk the locations in real life, but knowing the area gave me a better understanding of the state of the area back then. It was just an added bonus for me since I haven’t personally come across many novels that hit this close to home.
[“Not want to,” I said.
“I have to. Even if I can’t change a thing. Even if nothing—” I stopped, caught in the half-formed thought. “Even if nothing we do makes a difference, at least we can want to make a difference. That’s what I get now. It matters what you want to do.”]
From an introductory standpoint, the narrative is so immediate it’s no wonder I was doing mental exercises and burpees trying to keep up with information overload. This book is a thinker, I’ll give it that. Yet it wasn’t so farfetched as time-travelling goes. I enjoyed the parameters regarding the time-travelling rules followed throughout the book, but if you’re like me (often lazy) and would like to have immediate clarity on the first pass, this book might be a tedious exercise. My main issue was that at times I often had to backtrack and reaffirm with old and new information as they arose (specifically relating to their time travels). Rules are standards and they’re usually meaningless until put to the test. In this case, the story progressively evolves as you’re on Kenny’s journey with each travel he takes through the mirrors. So from a story telling standpoint, Lomax has done something right by increasing the likelihood of a connection between the reader/protagonist seemingly through the first-time experiences of both worlds.
Moreover, I felt that the world-building was a lot bigger than what was being let on. Interestingly enough, the whole story probably takes place in only a handful of places that could probably be counted with a hand or so. There’s so much going on in such a tight space that only certain overarching aspects are definite: Kenny has a mission to save a baby while mirror kids are being haunted by the legend of Prince Harming. The narrative itself was essentially a puzzle to be solved with the progressing plot and shifts in time to meet the plethora of other mirror children. And even then, the story isn’t without its out-of-left-field plot twists. There are so many things that I didn’t expect to happen despite being so clearly laid out for me at the beginning. For example, I found that the Prince Harming rhyme was never clear to me as a device for the underlying plot until it came back full circle towards the end and even then I felt stupid for not seeing some aspects coming despite the rhyme having repetitive inclusions. And with all the play on words happening, am I the only one who thought Prince Harming could have been Princ-Charming? In relation to Auby One being Obi-Wan which led me to profile potential candidates? Damn phonetics, right?
[“Aw, that’s just a story anyway,” said Jimmy. “Like the boogie man. Or Santa’s evil brother.”
We all turned to look at him.
“What, your mom never told you about Opposite Christmas, when Nefidious Claus comes to take the presents away if you were bad?” We continued to stare. Jimmy’s head sank. “Man, I had the worst childhood.”]
The characters in this book were pretty average. There was no one particularly stellar or overpowered, no damsels in distress, no one really useless. And that’s just fine since they were all unique voices; each with a specific role to the story even if they felt disjointed due to the sheer number of new characters being introduced. They were all purposeful and connected toward the endgame. Furthermore, to me, characters like Kenny, Luka, Lillian, Rick, and John were all relatable, honest and real despite the differences in eras separating them. Because without fail, even if their own perspectives weren’t shown, they understood that their connection to one another was much bigger than themselves.
[“A crying girl huddled in a corner….
…Rose’s head sprang up and her eyes grew round with surprise. “Who on earth are you?” she said as I stepped down off her dresser.
“I’m Kenny Maxwell,” I said, trying to channel my inner Skywalker. “I’m here to rescue you.”
Rescuing, it turns out, is a lot harder than in the movies. As soon as Rose got over the shock of seeing me, she went right back to sobbing. I had no idea what to do.”]
I particularly enjoyed John Wald’s character the most. Sure, I couldn’t make out exactly what he was trying to say most of the time, but his presence provided a sense of stability to Kenny’s escapade through time—the voice of reassurance and wisdom when everything’s muddled and confusing. And the fact that I thought it was so endearing each time he referred to Kenny as “Kennit”. There’s this olden-day ranger feel about him that’s kind of adorable. Well…at least I thought so.
[“Lover sweet, bloody feet, running down the silver street. Leave tomorrow when you’re called, truth and wisdom in the walls. Crack your head, knock you dead, then Prince Harming’s hunger’s fed.”]
What the heck does that mean, right?
As the primary antagonist in the novel (as far as antagonists go anyways), the legend of Prince Harming is an ever-looming unknown entity that only becomes fully known toward the end of the novel. With several variations of the same rhyme being constantly reminded throughout the novel, the context of each verse holds so little and so much as the story leads up its final chapters. So while at first I was perplexed with his development as a character, there was so much substance in such a short period of time that made the actual revelation work in its build up.
An avenue of intrigue from a character development standpoint might possibly be the other mirror children around the world. I’m sure if Lomax wanted to, he could explore these further with a pre/sequel of sorts.
Speaking to David Lomax as a writer, my God, I’m amazed he was able to deliver such a seamless narrative that when I take a step back and think about it—this shit is so detailed despite fundamentally sounding so simple. Everything was with purpose and I’m surprised he was able to wrap up pretty much every loose end without forgetting to throw in a warm, smile-worthy ending to the mix (although I would have been fine without it).
Kudos to this Backward Glass for some unexpected feels.
As we get deeper into the holiday season, that definitely means more warm beverages, makeshift blankets, and good reads, right?
Hit me up in the comments if you have anything to add to continue this conversation!