A good series is like the perfect comfort food. You know more or less what you’re going to get if you’ve been here before, and you take pleasure in that familiarity. The Marla Mason books are my comfort food. I love the wicked sense of humor and no-nonsense Marla provides, and I love the way Jessica Almasy reads her. I could be up for a dozen more adventures of this character.
Broken Mirrors finds Marla Mason at odds with her few friends and confidants as she attempts to do the impossible – resurrect her slain apprentice, Bradley Bowman. Resurrection turns out to be impossible, so Marla opts for the next best thing: removing a different Bradley Bowman from an alternate universe. Unfortunately for her, this has a couple of unexpected consequences: 1) The B-Bowman isn’t so keen on being taken from the universe he was in, and 2) Marla’s own alternate – the Mason, and her murderous associate Crapsy (alt. Rondeau) are also pulled into Marla’s universe.
While our Marla and Rondeau take the B-Bowman back to his own universe, and agree to aide him in fighting a revolution, the Mason and Crapsy go on a killing spree that leads them all the way to an unprotected Fellport. In the Mason, Marla finds her most dangerous foe – a darker, more vicious version of herself. And I think it’s probably the best villain of the series.
It really feels like Pratt was pulling out all the stops with this one. This was the first of the Marla books that he self-published, and I suspect he realized that it might very well have been the last (thankfully, it isn’t). We see characters that we’ve gotten to know over the past four novels (and short stories) fall, which was more of a punch to the gut than I expected. On the other hand, traveling to the alternate universe and seeing a lot of characters that have appeared in and/or died in the previous books was a sheer joy. It’s the Marla Mason equivalent of Days of Future Past or Age of Apocalypse (which Pratt said he read for “research.” Yes, we all feel so much woe for how hard it must be on him to write these books.)
Grim Tides finds Marla exiled from Fellport due to the events in Broken Mirrors, and could easily be seen as a new opening chapter of the series. She’s working as a private investigator in Maui with Rondeau, but the game and stakes have changed. Essentially, a bunch of Marla’s former enemies (and friends) have gathered together to take revenge on Marla. If the last book was Age of Apocalypse, this is the Return of the Sinister Six.
Broken Mirrors is probably my favorite of the Marla Mason books. That said, I enjoyed this book about as much as possible. Marla navigating the Ka’anapali shores, tromping through the seven sacred pools, and holing up in an office in Lahaina was a breath of fresh air. I loved seeing characters familiar, even from the oddest places (a favorite character of mine from one of Pratt short stories non-Marla Mason short stories showed up unexpectedly, which left me grinning like a daiquiri drinking fool.) While I’m excited to see what happens in Bride of Death (the next installment) I’m a little bit sad that Marla won’t get more time on Maui.
This could have been the closing of the series – there’s a lot of closure to events in this story as well as the previous stories, but I’m happy Pratt’s decided to continue. His writing is breezy, and the relationships his characters have with each other is why I keep coming back – I love hearing them talk and banter and rib each other. And I love hearing it all channeled by Jessica Almasy. The combination of Pratt’s Marla Mason and Almasy’s reading of her is a perfect marriage of material and narration, and I’m so excited for them to continue to do more stories in the Marla Mason series.
Disclosure: T.A. Pratt is the thinly veiled pseudonym of Tim Pratt, who’s novel Briarpatch I narrated for ACX.