The Chess Set in the Mirror

When a little book called “The Chess Set in the Mirror” came into my hands, I was thinking about chess, not mirrors.The story will sound a little familiar. A small boy who has been misbehaving is locked in a room by his parents, and warned not to touch the mirror! The door is closed (presumably locked) and the boy, naturally, can’t keep away from the mirror, which is sitting up high on a mantle. The only other things in the room, oddly, are a chess set upon a small table, in the middle of the room, and hence reflected in the mirror. The boy is not, because he is too short to see himself.

For several moments he devotes his energies towards trying to see his own reflection, and it is no surprise that after awhile he finds that he has ended up in the mirror, on the other side.The White King, we are given to understand, is the culprit responsible for this sudden change in existence.

As fantasia goes (the author, both the back of the book and Wikipedia assures, was the first to coin the term “magical realism”) it is more allegorical than most—more so even than Alice and her Looking Glass adventures. And the narrator—who, let us remember, was the kind of child a parent felt obligated to lock away in a room—is more than usually judgemental about the place he finds himself, and the people he meets there.

But the book is eerie and haunting (and as such doesn’t feel much like a children’s story).  I wrote a more complete review here


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