BROKEN MIRROR & SHATTERED TRUST
PARTS 1 & 2 OF THE DUALITY SERIES
By T.M. Carper
Summary/Broken Mirror: Picking up with the beginning of Season Three, Damon Salvatore finds much more than he bargained for at Elena’s 18th birthday. More specifically, he sees double.
Joanna Gilbert came to Mystic Falls to locate her missing father, not befriend her half-sister. Thanks to John Gilbert’s untimely death and the arrival of the Original hybrid, Jo has to resist the impulse to slaughter the vampires, mainly Damon Salvatore.
When her family is torn apart, Jo has no choice but to join forces with Damon in order to protect her remaining relatives. But being bait for Klaus has deadly consequences…
Summary/Shattered Trust: She always knew Damon Salvatore would betray her.
Joanna Gilbert never wanted to be a vampire. Taught to hate and stake the creatures who stalked humans by her father, she never assumed she would become one. With Klaus hunting her half-sister, Elena, she has no choice but to use her new strength and speed to her advantage.
Hatred for her sire becomes mutual attraction as they work together and he shows her the fun side of life as a vampire. But even his human side could be a carefully calculated lie.
Main Characters: Elena Gilbert, Damon Salvatore, Alaric Saltzman, Klaus Mikaelson
Secondary Characters: Caroline Forbes, Tyler Lockwood, Jeremy Gilbert
Original Characters: Joanna Gilbert, Joanna’s family
The Duality Series, by T.M. Carper, is a slight retelling of season three, featuring an original character in the heroine role rather than the oft-tormented Elena Gilbert. Our heroine: Joanna Gilbert, daughter of deceased John Gilbert and half-sister to Elena. Which means…
GASP! We’ve got ourselves a Mary Sue. If you check out the fan fiction terminology page, you’ll see that a Mary Sue is defined as: a fictionalized version of the author, inserted into the fan fic as an established character i.e. Elena has a half-sister.
According to Wikipedia, the Mary Sue concept began with Star Trek’s LT Mary Sue, “the youngest Lieutenant in the fleet — only fifteen and a half years old!”:
Mary Sue stories—the adventures of the youngest and smartest ever person to arrive in town. She is usually characterized by unprecedented skill in everything from art to zoology, including karate and arm-wrestling. This character can also be found burrowing her way into the good graces/heart/ of any of the main characters, especially the male protagonist or father figure. She saves the day by her wit and ability. *description was edited by me, making it a general description rather than one fitted for the Star Trek fandom.
Wikipedia goes on to say:
“Mary Sue” today has changed from its original meaning and now carries a generalized, although not universal, connotation of wish-fulfillment and is commonly associated with self-insertion. True self-insertion is a literal and generally undisguised representation of the author; most characters described as “Mary Sues” are not, though they are often called “proxies” for the author. The negative connotation comes from this “wish-fulfillment” implication: the “Mary Sue” is judged a poorly developed character, too perfect and lacking in realism to be interesting.
I could go on forever, delving into the criticism associated with these concepts, most especially from female authors who are <insert sarcasm> seemingly threatened by this little girl as she demeans women everywhere.
Let’s go back to Joanna Gilbert and the reviews of Broken Mirror and Shattered Trust. I won’t lie. Jo Gilbert meets all the requirements mentioned above to qualify as a Mary Sue. She is Elena’s long lost sister and takes Elena’s place as the heroine of the story. She suffers through unspeakable tragedy. She captures first the attention, then the love of Elena’s ‘true love’ and almost immediately finds herself playing the role of daughter to Alaric Saltzman. She misses the trifecta as Stefan appears to have no interest in her whatsoever.
Oh, by the way, did I mention that Joanna looks almost exactly like doppelgänger Elena and Katherine?
To maintain its Mary Sue qualities, even as everyone around Jo is falling in love with her (despite a somewhat grating personality) we find Elena portrayed as mean, spiteful, and unwelcoming of her sister. Anyone who has watched The Vampire Diaries knows that despite anything else going on in Elena’s life she desperately longs for family and latches onto any member with both arms, typically welcoming them into her life with ease. Well, except John Gilbert, who she already hated before her family started dying every other episode. And her bio mom Isobel who was a raging bitch and set herself on fire in front of Elena, adding at least 5 more years of therapy to her appointment book. But, I digress.
So…despite the previous 700 words listing all the cliché characteristics of a Mary Sue, guess what? I like Joanna Gilbert! These first two books in the Duality series are a load of fun. Jo is a dynamic character, trained by her dad to kick ass long before he sacrificed himself for Elena, and because she’s a Mary Sue she drives right into Mystic Falls knowing everything to know about the supernatural cloud hovering over the town. Though, she didn’t know about werewolves. Does that disqualify her as a Mary Sue?
Jo jumps right into the story, ready to take on everything and anything. She connects almost instantly with Alaric, finding in him the father she never had in John Gilbert. Joanna stakes Damon within minutes of their first meeting after he threatens to bite her, setting the stage for true love, vampire style. Elena ignores her almost completely from their first meeting, though she flip-flops as the series progresses, as she tries to decide if she wants a sister or not. Surprisingly, despite the growing love/hate relationship between Damon and Jo, the author doesn’t ignore the Damon/Elena love story told in season three, allowing for some excellent story telling as Damon determines who it is he loves.
Both books, especially Shattered Trust, attempt to weave in the Mary Sue original character with the events of season 3, but, unfortunately, this is where the author stumbles. T.M. Carper clearly wants to keep close to the essence of the season in regards to character interaction and relationship building, but she falls short. Important scenes occur out of context and go unexplained, especially during the culmination of Shattered Trust where the storytelling just gets lazy. Quite frankly, it’s really a shame.
Had Carper went with a new plot featuring Joanna instead of hijacking an already established one, she could have easily developed a great series based on the series’ concept that Elena and Jo are mirror images of each other. When she uses this theme in the books, that’s where the story really shines.
- Jo should not have the appearance of a doppelgänger, that particular brand of magic came down through Elena’s mother’s bloodline.
- Klaus didn’t know that Elena was alive. More so, he didn’t know that her blood was the key to the hybrids until senior prank night.
- There are a few grammatical and editing errors. My Christmas wish is for all Kindle Worlds authors to edit their work with a fine tooth comb so they’ll be better writers.