I’ll cut to the quick and give you a brief summary of reviews before directing you to the relevant links. Results are mixed and these books are not for everyone.
Amazon’s customer reviews average 4 stars for Part One and 5 stars for Part Two. About a third of those who review Part One don’t go on to review Part Two, apparently because they lose interest. An omnibus edition comprising both parts has been reviewed at NetGalley, averaging 4 stars. About a third of those reviews say it is a bit slow in places. Most reviews are very positive, especially about the engaging characters, the witty dialogue, the world-building and authentic atmosphere. Two professional reviews (paid for) reflect these results. Reedsy Discovery rates the two parts 4 and 5 stars and labels them Loved It! and Must Read! BlueInk reviewed the omnibus edition, comprising both parts. It doesn’t provide star ratings but mentions the positives and also adds the story is too slow in places, especially the earlier part.
How do we account for the mixed reviews? Obviously Part One is a bit slow for some readers and everyone is enthusiastic about Part Two (if they get that far). The reason isn’t hard to find. The story is a virtual travelogue, set in a variety of times and places, reflecting the viewpoints of 8 characters in Part One, and only 2 characters in Part Two. The extensive world-building and character development in Part One sets the scene for the epic narrative in Part Two. You won’t easily find another book of this scope and originality.
Reedsy Discovery Review
Loved it! 😍
A wonderful historical fiction novel filled with humor, adventure, romance, and great characters.
“There is nothing better, in my opinion, than a really good historical fiction novel. I love to get a glimpse into what life was like “back then”. And if the book can do so in a way that is fun to read and not too dry – then that is a book I won’t be able to put down. This book, Mirrored Sword Part One, was one of those books. It was so good I binge read it in a few hours on a rainy Sunday afternoon – I just couldn’t put it down.
The dialogue is witty and natural throughout and the author, Allan Hands, has filled his story with so many well-developed and multifaceted characters that I could picture the happenings in my mind as I read, almost as if a tiny play was being performed just for me in my imagination. This is a story that spans a short time period (only 17 days) and most of the action is contained within limited locations. It could have easily grown so stale but because the author chose to timebox each chapter as one of the days and provide a snippet of the story told from the perspective of one of the characters the narrative always feels fresh.
Little bits of our characters and their backstories are revealed throughout, and as each layer is revealed, the story remains interesting and engaging, keeping you wanting more– especially about our two main characters Susanna and Tom. The author also uses character perspective to provide the historical exposition that is needed to understand the political climate of England at the time (the story is set during the War of the Roses a time of civil war in England 1470s). The author does an excellent job of providing a glimpse into what it was like in the towns and while travelling during this turbulent time period.
Just one warning – the book ends a bit abruptly but that is because there is a sequel book – Mirrored Sword Part Two. If the author’s intent was to have me so invested in Susanna and Tom’s story that I was chomping at the bit to get my hands on the second part of their story – mission succeeded. If you, like me, love historically rich novels with some comedy, adventure, and romance thrown in for good measure – this book is definitely one to read.”
5 out of 5 stars Must read 🏆
A fun, exciting book with many twists and turns that does not disappoint
“I love a thrilling book that is so absorbing I can’t stop turning the pages, eager to find out what happens next. The Mirrored Sword Part Two is one of those books. I could not stop reading, even long after I should have turned out the lights and gone to bed. But the lack of sleep was worth it as I thoroughly enjoyed this exciting conclusion to the story first introduced in Mirrored Sword Part One. I was already addicted to the funny, humorous characters introduced in the first book and this same humor was carried into this book, along with more adventure and romance.
The characters were so real and so engaging that I was pulled into their world instantly and experienced all the highs and lows of the book right along with them. They were so well written that at times I wanted to punch or slap some sense into the heroine Susanna because of the choices she was making in her naivety. And I am not embarrassed to admit, I am half in love with the book’s hero, Tom, and my heart broke right along with his when his love felt unrequited and hopeless.
I ran the gambit of emotions while reading this book – there were moments when I laughed out loud at the witty banter between characters, when I got teared up, gasped out loud in surprise, or even screamed in frustration at the inexplicable behavior of some of the characters at times. I was on the edge of my seat as the book drew to its thrilling conclusion, so caught up in the danger and adventure of the last few chapters I could not put it down. This book was like a fun roller coaster ride with many twists and turns, and I was strapped in and enjoying the ride the whole way through.
My only disappointment is that the story is done and there is no more to read. But I am hoping that the author has more books coming, especially if they involve the continuing adventures of Susanna and Tom. This is a must read for historical fiction fans – you will not be disappointed.
Note: I recommend reading the books in order as Mirrored Sword Part One definitely builds a foundational story and sets up most of the characters and intrigue found in Mirrored Sword Part Two.”
Digital formats of the combined omnibus are now available at GoogleBooks, curently only $5.50 (I recommend the pdf format for the advantage of headers but Epub is also available). Unfortunately GoogleBooks hasn’t provided me with a link so you’ll have to make your own way there.
The Complete Mirrored Sword: Parts One and Two
Allan Hands, 772 pages, (paperback) $29.99, 978-0-6451982-5-6 (Reviewed: May, 2023)
This shelf-bending omnibus edition from the pseudonymous Allan Hands combines Parts One and Two of Mirrored Sword, a darkly comedic work of historical fiction that blends elements of romance, adventure, and political intrigue.
Susanna Mandeville is an enigma. She is stunningly beautiful but also a “difficult and vexatious woman,” known as the Shrew of Southwark by those that have had the misfortune of meeting her. She only seems to have two passions in life: the yearning to paint like the Dutch masters and her love of “the perfect man,” the Yorkist king Edward.
Tom Roussell—who believes Henry of Lancaster is the true king— is considered “England’s greatest warrior” and is known as the Beast of Ferrybridge for his ferocity in battle. When Mandeville and Roussell are thrown together, there’s instant animosity. But after the two become entangled with treachery surrounding Edward and his entourage, that intense dislike becomes something much more complicated as they are forced to rely on one another for survival. Misadventure ensues.
The story has numerous narrative strengths. The writing is fluid and clear, and the world- building is strong. The author effortlessly immerses readers in 1470 England during the War of the Roses, a series of civil wars between the Yorkist and Lancastrian factions. The main characters are deeply developed, and the storyline—filled with spies, treason, and conspiracies—is impressively intricate, although perhaps too much so for some readers.
The major flaw is in the story’s momentum, which is hindered by the author’s methodic and at times almost leisurely storytelling style. The entire novel isn’t like this; the latter chapters are action-packed and breakneck paced, and there are extremely well choreographed fight scenes that are fast and furious. But the slower moments can impact enjoyment.
In all, this historical romance powered by a pair of unconventional—and ultimately endearing— characters is largely engaging but unfortunately hindered by sluggish pacing in places.
If the NetGalley link isn’t working, you can access the reviews at the site itself. Failing that, try GoodReads. All the worst reviews ended up there for some reason. Here: