Disaffected and spoiled Snaldrialooran teen Ixdahan Daherek became an unexpected hero during his exile to Earth in Heart of Earth and found himself drawn back towards greatness when he stumbled across a plot for universal conquest in his second adventure, Heart of Mystery; however, nothing could prepare him for the sheer megalomaniacal wackiness of the Zoktylese plan to subjugate “non-sentient” worlds to cultivate more fields of the root that form the basis of their diet. Add in the fact that Ixdahan has become a little less, well, corporeal due to events at the end of the previous book, and the youngster is struggling to come to terms with his new situation while he transitions from youth to man.
To me the focus of The Changing Hearts of Ixdahan Daherek trilogy is how a selfish, self-centered youngster learns how to care about others and grow into a functional adult. Sure, there are a lot of trappings of interstellar warfare, alien worlds, fun spaceships, and all manner of sci-fi shenanigans, but none of the stories are just about space opera. The person Ixdahan is at the beginning of the trilogy and the final pages is very different, and while much of Mirror at the Heart of Time can stand alone, I think reading all three books enhanced my experience.
The basic story in Mirror at the Heart of Time is that Ixdahan has gotten embroiled in yet another interstellar plot that threatens the planet he loves, Earth. The Zoktylese (a not-too-subtle jab at crazy diet fads) are rapidly running out of space to grow Zoktyla root fields, the sole food in their diet, and they’re looking further afield for new societies to subjugate (i.e., eliminate). Earth is on the radar, and Ixdahan along with the Onkendren, some new friends from Book 2, prepare to prevent the strike. Throw in an Earth girl Ixdahan can’t forget: Lena Gabrilowicz; a beautiful and sexually confident Onkendren; Vendera; and not having a fleshly body, and the teenage protagonist faces a lot of complications. Mark Laporta’s other additions to the plot serve to open a universe far larger than humans have ever imagined, and while this book ends Ixdahan’s trilogy, I suspect there may be more stories to be told in the rich creation.
I absolutely adored the depth of Laporta’s world building in Mirror at the Heart of Time, although it helped that I knew some of the various races from the first two books. Each race or species felt unique and not just a humanoid with odd hair or appendages stuck to the face. In my opinion, any focus on Earth felt unnecessary, because I was intrigued by the new planets and societies, not how a relatively backward Earth had to be protected from the knowledge of sentient life forms in the universe.
Mirror at the Heart of Time is a young adult novel, so I wasn’t surprised at the hint of romance included along with the adventure and heroics. Most teenagers grapple with the pain of first love or love in general, so it’s relatable to the target audience; however, it felt shoehorned into the story, even the bits with multiversal beings readying themselves for mating/courtship season. The references took me out of the rich science fiction story, and sometimes I found the characters’ behavior a little irritating. (I haven’t been a teenager in a long time you see…) I know that some readers probably would find it charming; it just didn’t work entirely for me. The only major plus is that Laporta avoided one of my least favorite young adult tropes: your first love or high school love being The One ™. The romance exists, but it’s definitely not perfect.
Overall, if you enjoy world building and inventive science fiction that shows the wonders of the universe, Mirror at the Heart of Time, is an excellent read (however, please read all three books in the series, because they’re just better that way). Elements will appeal to adults and younger readers alike, and the characters within the pages will stay with you after the last pages are turned.
4 Unexpected Dietary Side Effects out of 5