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Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Author: Carole Johnstone
Release date: 1 April 2021
Publisher:  The Borough Press
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Psychological, Fantasy
Goodreads: Here 

No. 36 Westeryk Road, an imposing flat-stone house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A house of curving shadows and crumbling grandeur. But itโ€™s what lies under the house that is extraordinary โ€“ Mirrorland. A vivid make-believe world that twin sisters Cat and El created as children. A place of escape, but from what?

Now in her thirties, Cat receives the shocking news that her sister has disappeared. Forced to return to Edinburgh, Cat finds herself irresistibly drawn back into Mirrorland. Because El has a plan. Sheโ€™s left behind a treasure hunt that will unearth long-buried secretsโ€ฆ

It all began with an intriguing Instagram campaign courtesy of Harper Voyager UK.

Enter Mirrorland….

What in the world did that mean? I remember asking myself this. It was so vague there was only a hashtag #EnterMirrorland and a countdown. Then I woke up on a fateful Thursday morning to an Instagram story:

“First 100 requests will get immediate access on NetGalley”

I immediately jumped on it, and I was delighted to read the synopsis. It sounded like a perfect blend of fantasy, and some good old psychological thriller (I had been missing those since I read Ali Land’s Good Me Bad Me).

To say it was a strange trip would be a severe understatement.

Quick recap! ๐Ÿ™‚

Cat and El are identical twins supposedly able to sense even the slightest pain in one another. Throughout their childhood, they spent their lives inside a fantasy world Mirrorland – a world populated by pirates, outlaws, clowns, and prisoners. One fateful day, something happens and they had to leave behind Mirrorland forever. After being estranged for twelve years, however, El has disappeared and Cat finds herself returning to Mirrorland where El returned with her husband Ross (a mutual friend Cat knows all too well). While El is presumed dead, Cat is suddenly thrown into Mirrorland once again for a treasure hunt bearing the prize of her sister’s fate.


Every chapter in Mirrorland brings about a new surprise, each revelation making me question what is real and what is not. The fantasy that is Mirrorland is deeply rooted in Cat and El’s childhood, blurring the line between reality and fantasy. Mirrorland‘s present timeline forces Cat to increasingly drag out memories in Mirrorland and reconcile them with the horrific reality of what happened the day they left Mirrorland. Many painful and uncomfortable truths are brought to the open as Cat and El’s relationship is also dissected, bringing light to how the events in Mirrorland have affected them.

The fraught relationship between Cat and El enamored me to keep on reading, as Cat seems dead set on maintaining her belief that the disappearance is a cruel trick of El’s, and that she would have *felt* her death. Each part uncovers more layers to the sisters’ relationship and all the scarring events that have enforced Cat’s perception and formed her bias against her sister. It was painful to see how their relationship was torn apart since the fateful day they left Mirrorland forever. No, how cracks have formed even before they left and how the festering wounds terribly caused more harm to their relationship. Strangely, akin to how wounds were left open to be infected (this is as far as I can go without spoiling anything, weird analogies aside!)

The writing in Mirrorland is scarily atmospheric to the point I felt I had to take some breaks to reorient my sense of reality, but at the same time the book is incredibly gripping. Many of the stories, the adventures had in Mirrorland are imbued with darker truths touching on horrible abuse, love, betrayal, and familial bonds (e.g. motherly and sisterly love). Not one aspect of Mirrorland is wasted: it is chock-full of subtly planted arsenals to change the narrative; and just when I thought I had the truth all figured out, another information I’d dismissed as a throwaway line for “worldbuilding” in Mirrorland returns to add yet another massive piece of the puzzle I’ve no idea how large. The chills and misdirections are well-planned, although some of the revelations in the book may prove uncomfortable.

Concluding Thoughts

Carole Johnstone’s Mirrorland is a perfect blend of fantasy, mystery, and thriller as Johnstone takes the presumed innocence of childhood fantasy and rips it apart – showing the dangers of letting others shape your imagination. Mirrorland had been Cat and El’s safe haven, and the degree to which (and how) it went horribly wrong is the true tragedy of the book. Ultimately, Mirrorland is a story of loss, healing, and recovery from tragedy, years of abuse, and manipulation. I am happy to have had the opportunity to be one of the first few to read this gem *very early*, and I am equally glad to say that fantasy fans may also find this book an enjoyable read despite its more grounded nature.

P.S. Fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Emma Donoghue’s Room may also enjoy Mirrorland ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜‰

Mirrorland is set for official release on 1 April 2021.


My many thanks to NetGalley, HarperCollins UK, and The Borough Press for providing an early e-ARC of this book for an honest review.

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