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Review Of A Unique Fantasy Book - A Tale of Mirrors, Kaleidoscopes and Liminal Space: Child Of a Rainless Year
Science and Magic in New Mexico
I am not a fan of fantasy and magical fiction, but have always enjoyed science fiction, or what Mr. Harlan Ellison® calls futurist literature, since I was 10 years old. Child of a Rainless Year combines magic and the investigation of liminal space to produce a fantasy story that I like. More than that, it is haunting. For anyone that is uncertain about their family roots, this book may resonate.
Ms. Linskold thoroughly researched the many facets of this story, enough facets to match the many faces of the mirrors through which one of her protagonists travels through time in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Her patchwork house takes on a life of its own and tells its caretaker how to paint the exterior and in what color combinations. The house is alive and its collections of mirrors and doorways offer infinite chances to explore the past to the Queen of Mirrors and Mistress of Thresholds in liminal space.
With all this interdimentional activity it is little wonder that New Mexico was chosen for the Roswell UFO landings in 1947. Not only is new Mexico another world, it seems to lead into Other Worlds.
A Partchwork House of Mirrors
This particular book is much like an X-Files tale without FBI agents.
Instead, there are "representatives" from some unknown board of trustees or a secretive banking society. There are also the Silent Women, the serrvants of Phineas House in Las Vegas, New Mexico. They serve the Quuen of Mirrors and her daughter with a sort of second sight -- They simply appear with what one needs just as one thinks of it. They never appear to go home, but neither do they stay in the house...
The protagonist of the story is Mira Bagatyr Fenn, who came into being in
Las Vegas NM among the Silent Women and lived a solitary existence in the Victorian style Phineas House. Collete, her mother, ruled with a iron hand - until she disappeared into the thin air of the New Mexican altitudes.
No one could find her and she did not return.
Mira and the House
Mira benefited form a private tutor, attended Las Vegas private school, and wore heavy Victorian laces and velvets that Coleltte also favored for herself. Both seemed to be from another time, yet from no time at all - or perhaps they were timeless and from all times.
Collette, totallyu self-absorbed, would stare into mirrors to apply her lavish makeup, having no detectable facial coloring without it. It had to be perfect.
This was an elaborate daily tradition, contrasted against the colors amassing around of Mira -- The child picked up her first crayon at school and was an almost instant art prodigy, understanding color relationships and shadings in just two week's time. This bothered Collette, who campaigned thereafter against crayons.
When Mira becomes nine years old, Collette sets out on a short ego-filled trip and does not return.
Mira is shuttled off to foster parents in Ohio, very different from New Mexico. Less color, no buttes to climb from which to watch magnificent thunderstorms, no Southwest Indian tribes and their traditions. No magic, really. On top of that, the parents are bound by the odd Trustees of the Las Vegas property not to discuss the house with Mira or to discover anything bout it themselves.
The upside is that Mira can put aside her odd life with Collette and wear middle class catalogue clothing and be more average all around. She does study art, though, and becomes an art teacher in her little Ohio town. At age, 21, her foster father informs her that she is an heiress of an estate he has managed for 12 years in trust until her age of maturity. She asks him to continue to manage her estate and she stays in Ohio..
And so it goes until Mira hits her early 50's. Her foster parents both die and leave her alone in Ohio, except for her few friends and art students in the public school system. She discovers that Phineas House is part of her inheritance and takes leave from teaching in order to go look it over, perhaps "just for the summer."
The House of Many Colors
After a long drive from Ohio and arriving in New Mexico, Mira learns about the history of the town and its political boundaries - two Las Vegases had joined to form one quasi-governmetn but remained somehow separate.
She learned about the cultures gather there and about the artistic traditions and gained a whole summer in which to perform art only for her own edification.
Phineas House was cared for by Domingo, who opened it up rarely, but felt that the house was calling on him to paint it - in multi-colors.
Phineas House had and was a personality, a personalty filled internally with aged furniture but will a conglomeration of mirrors and many, many doorways.
Little by little, Mira moves into the house, Domingo living in the caretakers cabin next door. She and Domingo's hired crew painting Phineas House to be a multicolor masterpiece, discovering bas relief animals along its edges to be filled in with almost lifelike textures and shades.
The Silent Women appear little by little as well and begin to serve Mira as they had in her childhood. Later, Domingo becomes aware of them and them of him.
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Liminal Space & Teleidoscopes
Mira digs further into the persona and operations of Phineas House than the Trustees would wish her to do. Still, she decides to stay on in New Mexico past the summer and with Domingo's help, she finds an old, long, and winding genealogy for herself, all paths crossing at Phineas House.
She discovers Liminal Space - the space "between", like a twilight between dimensions - in mirrors, in doorways, and int he thresholds provided by a set of intricate kaleidoscopes in all colors of the rainbow and a set of teleidoscopes that form a kaleidoscopic image from objects outside the instrument..
Mira comes into her own personhood in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and finds out just how she was born as she chases her mother Collete through the gauzy hallways of time.
This book is a joy to read and a sorrow for the reader when it is finished. I hope there will be another adventure for Mira in New Mexico.