Cover Image: The Mirror Broken Wish

The Mirror Broken Wish

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Member Reviews

Disney fairy tales have always been my favorite and always will be. I was really excited to read this book from Disney Hyperion. What drew me in was the classic, Grimm Brothers type writing, but what pulled me through was the plot. I really didn't know what would happen next, and even though I guessed at what would happen, I was somehow still surprised by how it ended. Plus, I really enjoyed the references to the Grimm brothers and especially a present-day future, grounding this story in wholly the past, with magical elements. 

I'm unsure, however, if this was supposed to be a fairy tale re-telling or just an entirely new fairy tale? I recognized elements of many different fairy tales including Snow White, Into the Woods, Sleeping Beauty, and others. But they were so loose, this story pretty much took a life of its own. And while I enjoyed the writing at first, I think it ultimately fell flat for me. I had a really hard time connecting to Elva and the other characters. Though we were in third-person limited perspective, I still felt quite distanced from the characters. I think had the writing style changed just a tad I would have enjoyed the book more. But, I recognize the literary practice put into place by emanating that of the old fairy tales, and for that, I respect it.

I don't know if I'll pick up the next book, though I'm curious to see how the story continues on after this!

3/5 stars
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A Young Adult or Upper Middle Grade read that I am still gushing over. This story is the first of three planned books (written by different YA authors) following one family and the curse that begins in this volume. If there had been an Audible version, I would have picked it for both my MG and YA Bookish Society members. I am an unabashed fan of the fractured fairy tale trope, and this story brings new twists and turns to what otherwise would be a common tale. 
Quick synopsis: Woman wants baby, makes a deal with the witch, backs out of the deal only to have her baby daughter grow up with magical powers, and in the 1800s, Germany isn't ideal for getting along with the neighbors. Her daughter finds the witch, and they form a friendship. Any more info will spoil it; while there is romance, it isn't kissy or graphic, pretty mild, which I why I think my voracious middle-grade readers will eat this classic fairy tale up.
I adored this and can't wait for more.
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I received a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. This does not impact my opinion of the book 

I found myself pretty time strapped for reading when I started this one, so it took longer to finish than it should. This would be a pretty fun (perfect for this season) quick read under normal circumstances. Overall, I enjoyed! This is going to be a series of four books, each one by a different author, that follows a family through generations as they grapple with a family curse. This one begins in 1865 Hanau Germany

The writing and the feel of this story had a very fairytale-esque quality which I really enjoyed! I loved the descriptions of The North Woods especially! I kind of got Hansel and Gretal vibes and I'm here for it. 

I loved the focus on different relationship dynamics too- sibling, parental, friendship, romantic, found family- there was a good mix of relationships and they were layered and made more complex as characters dealt with the effects of choices. 

I also appreciated how difficult topics were handled. There was discrimination, the pressure to act a certain way to "fit in," the dismantling of friendships and romances, and none of it seemed like a plot device. It fit in and flowed seamlessly. 

I can't wait to see where this one goes next! Thanks to Disney Hyperion and Netgalley for the review copy!
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Actual Rating: 3.5 stars

Broken Wish is the first book in a fantasy series that is very intriguing. It follows a cursed families over generations, with each book being written by a different YA author. This first installment is set in 1865 Germany and lays the groundwork for following books. I want to say up front that I think I would have loved this more if I was an actual teenager, but I still think there's a lot to like and I'm interested in continuing with the series.

Thematically this is a book about acceptance, being true to yourself, and the dangers of caring more about what people think than about doing what's right and being kind to outsiders. I think the messaging here is fantastic and always timely. We get a fairly well-developed magic system for a fairytale, although that sometimes comes with heavier exposition than I prefer. The main character is Elva, a sixteen-year-old girl with a secret magical ability and a family curse tied to a broken promise her mother made to a witch. Set in a time and place where powerful women were feared and persecuted, we see this struggle of what it means to be different when that is not accepted. I won't say too much more about the plot, but I generally liked the direction it took.

The first third of this book was incredible and completely sucked me in. Much of it focuses on Elva's mother as a young wife and her complicated relationship with Mathilda who is believed to be a witch. It's tightly written and emotionally compelling. The later portion reads much more like YA directed at teenagers, and I had more mixed feelings about it, but I'm also not the target audience. This is where we follow Elva and her getting to know Mathilda. A lot of my struggle is that Mathilda behaves and responds like a teenager, not like a grown woman and I had a hard time taking her seriously or finding her believable as a character in this section. Elva can be overly optimistic and naive, but she's 16. If I was a teenager, that might not have bothered me.

Overall, I think this is a strong start to a series that will be great for teens and I'm curious to see where it goes. I received a copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own.
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This book is utter magic! Iam so excited to see mroe from this series as there are oging to be three mroe books by other powerhouse authors. The first book in this series was absolutely beautiful and evocative of classical fairytales that many adore.
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I love Julie Dao's writing so much. This is a gorgeous retelling based on Grimm's fairy tales. With expert pacing and well-developed characters, this story tells the tale of mistakes made by a mother that have repercussions for her entire family. An age-old tale of how society fears intelligent, strong, independent women.
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 It’s so easy for some to be accused of being a witch. Girl and women who are pretty, who are rich yet unmarried, who are passing through town, who hums songs the church doesn’t like.” 

I love fairytales. Julie C. Dao had done a marvelous job on the first installment of this modern, fractured fairytale. It blends classics themes with more modern themes, creating a story about outsiders, loneliness, family, love, loyalty, and broken promises. 

A broken promise leads to a cursed family and calamity for all involved. This story has a witch, but is she really the dangerous person she has been made out to be or is she misunderstood? Does she react to a world that has treated her with nothing but cruelty in a way that makes sense?

I have lowered my voice, I have bowed my head, I have made myself smaller.

My heart ached for Mathilda and her lonely heart. Mathilda lives on the fringes of society, unable to find acceptance. Her heart is disappointed over and over again. 

Then there’s Agnes who sees Mathilda, but is too afraid of what the world will think of her. Afraid of the inevitable judgment that comes from caring for those on the outside who need to be cared for the most.

Elva is young and optimistic. She believes in a better world that isn’t ready to be better.

This story is touching and sweet, while it is also terribly sad at the end. 

I can’t wait to see what Danielle Clayton does with the next book in the series. I will definitely be reading.

This is a great book for kids middle school and above who enjoy fairytales.
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I was so excited to be approved for this book because Julie C. Dao is one of my favorite authors! While this isn't my favorite of her books, it was still very fascinating and enjoyable. I really resonated with the main character, Elva, because I could relate to her struggles. I also loved seeing how relationships played out between all the different characters. Even though I don't know much about 19th century Germany, the setting was very vivid and I felt like I was there. I also loved how unpredictable the plot was. The plot twists were always unexpected, but they made everything make sense. I also enjoyed the fairytale aspect because I love reading retellings. I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading fractured fairytales, and I just can't wait for the next book!
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The Good
– Interesting dynamics between complex women and girls
– Elva's unflinching kindness and goodness
– Mathilda is easy to empathize with
– Solid storytelling
– Lovely sensory details

The Bad
– Slow start / beginning doesn't grab you
– Dao's writing style is clunky and rough around the edges
– Romance between Elva and Willem is a hard sell
– Predictable at times

Story—★★★☆☆
1848: Agnes and Oskar have recently moved to the little town of Hanau, Germany, escaping the stigma surrounding Oskar, who grew up a bastard. Agnes has befriended their shy neighbour through the exchange of letters and goods, despite Oskar's disapproval and gossip that Mathilda is a witch. Overjoyed with her new friend, the lonely Mathilda offers Agnes a concoction to cure her infertility. In exchange, she asks Agnes promise to remain her friend. Agnes takes the concoction, but between nosy neighbours and Oskar's fear Hanau will shun them, she stops responding to Mathilda's letters. Shortly after, Agnes finds herself pregnant and that Mathilda, heartbroken, has moved deep in the North Woods.

1865: Elva, daughter of Agnes, sees helpful visions in reflective surfaces. At her parents behest, she has hidden and avoided her abilities. Between catching a vision of a dreadful storm wrecking her family's farm, her mother's insistence that a curse plagues the family, and discovering letters between Agnes and a woman who might be the witch of North Woods, Elva seeks out Mathilda for magical aide.


Something really cool about The Mirror series is that's it's generational saga about a family curse, told over four volumes by four different authors of colour. In this regard, Broken Wish reminded me a little of R.L. Stine's Fear Saga, but like, if the central forces of the story were the power of kindness and female friendship, and not gore and vile humanity.

Dao does a good job building the tension up over the length of the story. We've seen this type of story before, so we KNOW something bad's going to happen, but between Mathilda's loneliness and Elva's steadfast warm heart, it's easy to root for the best possible outcome. Dao's also provided ample evidence for both the fearful villagers and for the goodness in people to come out on top. We see how Agnes has raised her children to be kind and doggedly reject gossip and how Elva's powers are occasionally celebrated, but we also hear the empty-headed gossip about Mathilda and how quick people assign blame to her.

Broken Wish's weakest point was the beginning. It's not a poor start, but it goes on a bit too long and it's hard to attach ourselves to Agnes when we know she's not the main character. Also, given Agnes and Mathilda's exchange of letters combined with Elva's ability to see into the past, Dao could easily work these parts into the book as it went along.

Dao's done a solid job on the setting. Some food and clothing choices seemed intentionally vague, but her grasp of daily life and descriptions of the area sold the place and time period.


Characters—★★★★☆
Although the story opens with Agnes, it is Elva and Mathilda at the heart of Broken Wish.

Mathilda is a bitter woman with a closed heart. Time and time again, society has proven she cannot trust it. At best, people will use her for their own gain while keeping her at a distance. At worst, they will hunt and condemn her to death. After Agnes broke her promise to remain friends, Mathilda packed up and retreated deep into the North Woods, hiding herself behind walls of both the emotional and magical sort.

Enter Elva.

Elva is furiously kind and deeply good-hearted. Her ability to see into the future means she has something in common with Mathilda that Agnes didn't, and she wants to believe she can use this ability to bring happiness and prevent strife. Don't make the mistake of confusing Elva for a pushover: Elva is determined and willing to do what needs doing. She slowly cracks open the shell around Mathilda's heart with her unrelenting kindness and steadfast belief in others,

I found Mathilda to be more relatable than Elva or Agnes, but then again, I was the Weird Kid in school growing up. While she opened up at a realistic pace, her behaviour was too polarized. It felt more Bitter Mathilda and Open Mathilda were two completely different characters, rather than one character after different experiences.

Elva isn't as dynamic a character as Mathilda, but she does a great job as our main POV character: she's likeable and she gets things done. Her character arc is steady, believable, and the end of it reveals her greatest flaw in such a perfect and painful way.

Dao's greatest strength in all her characters is easily establishing their motivations and letting those motivations drive the characters in a way that is both clean and straightforward, but not heavy-handed. 

Elva's romance with Willem is a tricky thing. They have their ups and downs, and Dao certainly describes Willem in a swoon-worthy manner, but Broken Wish isn't a book you read for the romance, like, say, The Wrath and the Dawn. Their romance is a subplot and it functions like one. You want it to work out for them because Elva is a good person you want good things for, but Willem isn't one of those guys who gets assigned "book boyfriend" status. Sorry, romance fans.


Writing Style—★★☆☆☆ (2.5 Stars)
Broken Wish is told in third person, past tense from primarily Elva's point of view, but also features Agnes', Mathilda's, and Cay's points of views at various points in the book.

Honestly, Dao's writing style is disappointingly amateurish for an author who's written four or more books now. It's awkward, it's clunky, it's just getting the job done. It's like watching someone cutting soft, fresh bread with a butter knife. Or a surgeon using a hammer instead of a scalpel. A bit embarrassing, since free programs (example: ProWritingAid) can pinpoint most of the issues—like redundant and filler words—and help fix them. 2020 might be a mess, but your prose doesn't have to be!


However, it's unfair to categorize it as all bad. Dao is still a solid storyteller and focuses on the right elements in her scenes and always keeps things moving forward. Additionally, she does a lovely job with sensory details and recurring thematic elements.

Themes and Representation—★★★★☆
Broken Wish centers on the power of kindness, openness and understanding vs stigma, lies, and the push for conformity through fear of rejection. Dao handles the war of these elements superbly, and with a tidy execution. I've brought up the other elements a few times, so I find it important to touch on the battle of openness vs lying here, mainly how nothing good happens when a character intentionally lies to another, even with good intent. Agnes takes Mathilda's cure for her infertility and promises to remain her friend, knowing she intends to break that promise. Elva lies to her parents, telling them Mathilda can take away her powers. Likewise, Mathilda can't find a true friend until she tells the truth about some of the nasty little things she's done to protect herself in the past.

Given the time period and setting, there isn't much room for a dearth of representation, but Dao deals with the core parts—like the ostracism of anyone different, particularly unusual women—quite well, and does include lesbian supporting characters in Mathilda's past and Asian characters in the background. There's also Cay, Elva's younger brother, who's interested in hobbies which weren't traditionally masculine, such as embroidery.


Overall—★★★★☆ (3.5 Stars)

Recommended For...
Fans of dark fairytale-style stories; mentor-mentee dynamics; steadfastly kind and good main characters.
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I really enjoyed this dark, fractured fairy tale that was a nod to the Brothers Grimm. The story takes place in a small village (Hanau) in Germany at the edge of the North Woods in 1699, which was during the time that the Brothers Grimm were collecting their fairytales. Folks readily believed in magic and the supernatural but considered it the work of evil. There is a lot of relevance to modern-day issues of racism, prejudice, and how you treat others, but what I loved about this book was the atmosphere and creation of this fictional village that felt very realistic. Although there is magic in this book, it feels believable as the mix between magic and reality becomes somewhat obscured. I ended up enjoying this story very much and can recommend it for teens and adults alike. 

Special thanks to the author and publisher, and also to NetGalley for this advance review copy in exchange for my honest review.
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I have read two of Julie C Dao's books before and with this third one I have yet to be disappointed!

Broken Wish has all the stamps of the Disney brand with a sweet, kind, and plucky heroine in a feel good story. Of course with some variations.

Elva was a great protagonist. She's sweet and kind but it doesn't feel forced - it just exudes out of from her naturally through her actions and dispositions. I absolutely loved her family dynamic and the way she interacts with her siblings. Loving, patient, but also willing to apologize and listen. She tries her hardest to make things right, or see the best in people even though it doesn't always end up that way.

The story moves through swiftly and I really enjoyed the scenes where Elva is learning about her magic. I wish we had more insight into her curse about what it really does but I suppose that's what the future novels in this story will do. There's no violence, cursing, or risque moments so I think this would be perfect for a younger audience as well.

I wish the ending had more kick as it shifts to another person's perspective but it doesn't really bring the story down.

Good stuff! Nice fairy tale vibes in here.

eArc provided by NetGalley
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Broken Wish spans the lives of a mother and daughter and the unforeseen consequences of choices. Agnes longs to have a child and when her new friend says she can help she is excited by the opportunity- except that her new friend is called a witch by the townspeople and her husband fears the scorn of those people if Agnes continues her friendship. Fast-forward 16 years, Agnes' daughter Elva has been told to keep her powers a secret for fear of being scorned by the townspeople. But Elva longs to know more about what she is capable of, especially when she has had a vision of danger, so she goes on a quest to find a witch...


To be completely honest, while I appreciate the plot and the magic of the story, I found this book to be really sad (I guess as all real fairytales were, with a lesson to be learned). All acts have consequences and fate will find you no matter how you try to hide. There were so many moments that I wanted to intervene (particularly with ALL of Agnes' choices) and shake sense into the character, but alas without bad choices we would not get the magic of fairytales and lessons.
While this story wrapped up completely, this is the first book in a series where each book is written by a different author about different characters and I am interested to see where this series will go next.

Broken Wish was basically a love letter to all the fairytales out there. This story took bits and pieces from so many well loved and know stories to create something so unique and wonderful, something that felt like it belonged among the classic tales itself while still being unique. I also loved how the author occasionally mentioned the Grimm brothers and their quest to write the real tales in this book, adding a layer or reality to what would otherwise be a fantasy. I would recommend this to anyone who loves the magic of fairytales as well as the idea that you better be careful what you wish for.
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4.5 Stars

There’s so much to love about Broken Wish. It’s slightly darker than your average Disney fairy tale and a lot more nuanced. The book takes place in 19th century Germany and even makes reference to the Grimm brothers and their collection of stories. The German setting grounds the story, giving readers an exact idea of culture and events.

Though Elva is the “main character,” there are two more women that also play a huge role — Elva’s mother, Agnes, and the so-called witch, Mathilda. All three women are well developed and compelling. The book would not be as strong without Dao’s strong development on their part.

What makes Broken Wish so strong is Dao’s deft ability to stray from the expected while still creating a world that is familiar. The pacing is perfect, making you want to devour and savor at the same time.

Broken wish is a book I already want to reread, and I am excited for the rest of the series.

*Review based on advanced copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Thank you to Netgalley for the e-arc!

4 stars!

I absolutely loved this book! Dao managed to capture the eerieness and atmosphere of classic fairytales perfectly, especially in the first few chapters where we're introduced to Mathilda and Elva's parents. I don't know much about 19th century Germany, but Dao manages to create an immersive and whimsical setting. Somehow, Broken Wish invokes a very "Disney" vibe and it's perfect.

Elva is also very reminiscent of a Disney princess with her spunk and compassion. Her relationships with other characters (especially Mathilda!) bring so much warmth to the story. Broken Wish truly has the makings of a fairytale to be told to children on dark nights. 

I absolutely cannot wait for this sage to continue with the next three books!
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Magic. Evil. Magic Mirrors. Witches. This book has all the perfect ingredients for a lovely, dark fairy tale! I loved the story!

I'm not going to say much about the plot -- no spoilers. This book is a tale best enjoyed with no prior knowledge of events. I accidentally read a spoiler in a review before reading.....and I would have enjoyed it much more without knowing anything beforehand. 

The story is fast paced and entertaining. The characters are wonderful. The book kept my attention from start to finish. I couldn't stop reading! And, the cover art is amazing!

This is the first book by Julie C. Dao that I've read. I am DEFINITELY reading more! 

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Disney/Hyperion. All opinions expressed are entirely my own**
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*Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.*

All Agnes wanted was to make new friends in her new town. All Mathilda wanted was to be left alone, but striking up a friendship seemed the natural course of things, even for a witch. Of course, as their friendship progressed, the townspeople began to notice, and Agnes stopped communicating, just like that - after Mathilda had already made her a potion to help her conceive. A potion for which she promised friendship, and then broke that promise. And there are consequences for broken promises. 

That was years ago, and now Agnes’s daughter, Elva, is almost grown. It’s her story we follow, as she finds her mother’s correspondence with Mathilda and decides to seek her help using her own magical powers (one of the consequences of her mother’s broken promise). But can she find her? And would she even want to help? 

MY NOTES: An interesting fairy tale-inspired story. Elva is a bit of a Mary Sue, and I spent some time waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I enjoyed it very much. Not that it’s predictable - it didn’t end how I thought it would. All around, a good story.
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This book read like a fairytale, which was obviously the point, and for that, I really enjoyed it. The world was so whimsical and cozy, and made me want to sit in a cottage and eat stew with a cup of tea. That’s the kind of book this is, something to enjoy while curled up next to a fire. However, I found that it was lacking in some parts, such as characterization and plot. It didn’t feel like much actually happened over the course of the story, and the stakes didn’t seem like they were big enough. I found that each of the problems Elva came across were easily solved and this made the pacing of the story weird. As for the characters, I never found myself overly attached to any of them. It felt like their personalities were just a few traits thrown together with nothing to make them overly complex. This novel does fit well as a Disney book though, so I think it did its job in that aspect. 

This book is the first in a series following different characters and written by different authors. I find this concept pretty interesting so I might check out the other books when they come out. It would be interesting to see how this fairytale world is expanded on and how other writers make it their own.
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This was a beautiful book that was a unique take on the Sleeping Beauty folktale.  I love Elva, she was such a empathetic character, a young woman trying to find her place.  She loves her family, she's falling in love with a young man in her village and she's learning about her own magic.  It was a very beautiful story so atmospheric her village is like any other small village, gossip, young people falling in love, a witch on the outskirts.  I took a chance on this and was rewarded handsomely.
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If you love fractured fairytales, but are tired of the same stories told over and over then this is the book for you. Broken Wish has familiar tropes within fairytales, but it has unique characters and twists. What makes this book even better is that it is a series that will dive into different eras. It was an enjoyable read and I am looking forward to continuing this series.
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I don't request books very often on NetGalley (where you can get ARCs-Advance Review Copies) with the exception of asking for Disney Publishing books because I have almost always enjoyed their books and this one was no exception! First of all, I love the concept of this new series. Four different authors will write a book about a family that is cursed through time. In this book, 16-year-old Elva has powers that she tries to hide for her family's sake but when she meets the Witch of the North Woods, things change. I love stories where the lines between the 'hero' and 'villain' are blurred and I enjoyed the fact that this book had some deeper themes around friendship and prejudice and fitting in. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the series. Thanks to NetGalley and Disney Publishing for this ARC!
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