Plague in the Mirror by Deborah Noyes

Young Quills Review

Last updated: 20th November 2015

1. What was meant to be a summer in Florence with her only friend, innocent May was sought out by ruthless Cristofana (her present day doppelganger). Cristofana wants her and May to swap lives and live in opposite realities. The story takes place in Florence over the summer. It is an unusual story of time travel, love and choice. The story begins relatively slowly as it carefully introduces the characters with specific detail to their personas and lifestyles.  Gradually the story progresses in interest and intensity as May's character must decide between reality and safety and love and imminent death.

May is a student from Vermont in the USA.  She is from the 21st century and has travelled to Florence to study historical artefacts with her friend Liam, and his travel writing mother.  Cristofana is May's deathly twin from the 14th century.  She lives in Florence during the renaissance when the Bubonic Plague was rife. Marco is May's love interest who Cristofina exploits to influence May's decision.

The two female protagonists are opposites: May is a loner with very few friends.  She spends the majority of her time either at school or at home.  Living with her parents who are mid divorce is problematic, as they are insisting she choose between them.  Cristofana on the other hand is a dark, manipulative young woman who worked as a servant until her master was killed by the plague.  The only similarity the two women have is their appearance - they are identical. 

Out of the two Cristofana is a much more complex character.  Due to the fact she lived in a volatile time, she witnesses death, disease and suffering.  She stole from the dead and dying for her own survival.  The relationship between Cristofana and May worsened when May realised Cristofana's true agenda.

The novel is written in the first person from May's perspective.  This was important because the reader lived the story through May's eyes.  This highlighted her feelings and thoughts throughout the story.  The setting was as different as the characters: May lived in Vermont a leafy suburb in America whereas Cristofana lived in Old Florence, a poverty, plague stricken hell hole.  The story is equally split between the Renaissance in Italy and the 21st century in USA.

"The Plague In The Mirror" was an interesting read because it had so many layers: time travel, history and romance.  There is something in there for everyone.  I think the most gripping parts were when Cristofana made her intentions known to May and her reaction towards Marco and Cristofana's deviousness.

It is well known the author has a curiosity towards the paranormal and history.  The idea that there could be another person out there "wearing the same face" but acting in a completely opposite way was not only an interest but a fascination of hers.  Like May, Deborah Noyes lives in the USA. 

Through reading this book I have learned more about what life was like in the 14th Century and how brutal and savage it was.  Also, I became more sympathetic to the actions of desperate people like Cristofana.  Stealing from the dying was a way of surviving not just a choice.  It also demonstrated how lucky we are to live in the 21st century because people of all ages lived on the street, died young and witnessed atrocious hardship.

This book was quite unique because it explores similarities and differences between the two times.  Also, it was as much fact as fiction.  The time travel element was completely fictitious but the lifestyle of the Renaissance was largely based on fact.

By Joseph

2. We loved the idea behind this timeslip, historical, paranormal romance and also the exotic Italian setting.  Ultimately though, we weren't convinced!  Although May's reason for going to Florence, to give herself some thinking time over her parents' divorce, was credible enough this story thread was never convincingly resolved in the same way that her possible romantic link with the never really likeable Liam is never followed through.   While we were prepared to go along with the timeslip back to 1348 Florence we couldn't quite believe that May would really want to stay in the plague-ridden city, risking death, to be with an intriguing artist whom she hardly even knew!  Maybe the characters are simply not well developed enough to make this believeable?  Having said that, Florence, both past and present, was really well described and the historical atmosphere of Medieval Florence is well evoked.  This might well be a good way into historical novels for those who think they don't like reading them.

By Cramlington Learning Village, Northumberland