After human mages destroy the planet Izrah, they encounter one of the magical beings from the planet. Fascinated by its power, mage scientist Kabek and his compatriots decide to terraform one of the planet’s remaining pieces and create evolved animal-human hybrids in their quest to understand Izrah’s secrets. Among these creatures is Sena, a dog hybrid, who flees to lead a rebellion before ultimately retreating into the mountains in shame. Some years after Sena runs away, Izrah’s anger reaches a peak. Soon, humans, animals, and hybrids alike will feel the planet’s wrath.
Although the initial summary sounds quite dark, Mirror: The Mountain is a quiet story that sweepingly explores themes of ambition, courage, and redemption. Rather than relying exclusively on hot-blooded, violent conflict, Emma Rios tells a story where decisions and actions clearly drive the plot. The storyline jumps from present to past, and, as a result, the story can occasionally be difficult to follow. However, readers who stick with the story and work to fit the pieces together will be rewarded with a tender, thoughtful story.
What makes the story so engrossing is the strong character development. Rios has created engaging characters who contribute just the right amount of wrinkles to the plot. Both Sena and Kabek have a clear impact on the story, but the more minor characters also play important roles in moving the story forward. Among the cast is Ivan, a talented mage reluctant to make a move to protect Sena and the other hybrids; Zun, a mouse-human hybrid who wants to save everyone; and Aldebaran, a bull hybrid who once had a connection to the planet but is now, for all intents and purposes, human. The characters’ struggles to work through their own shortcomings and the consequences of their decisions are relatable and compelling. If anything, these so-called less important characters have better arcs. Kabek’s direct connection with the magical being and his lofty leadership role makes him more opaque, and his character arc is less engaging. That being said, the other characters make up for this shortcoming.
Another strength of Mirror: The Mountain is its beautiful art. The world that artist Hwei Lim creates is highly reminiscent of some of Hayao Miyazaki’s worlds: magic, nature, and technology intermingle, and Lim brings the world to life with bright, gorgeous watercolor illustrations. Lim excels at conveying the characters’ emotions and personalities, and her hybrid designs are as varied and unique. The panels are flexible, which suits the meandering nature of the story, and the watercolors contribute to the story’s quiet tone.
Mirror: The Mountain will appeal to adult and teenage fans of introspective science fiction and fantasy. Additionally, those who want more will find bonus minicomics and concept artwork at the very end of the book. These bonus materials, plus the story itself, make Mirror: The Mountain an enjoyable volume to peruse.
Mirror: The Mountain
by Emma Rios
Art by Hwei Lim