This is the sort of book that deserves a wider audience than it's gotten so far. The author is a lesbian, and the book contains a gay character. Since mainstream publishers are still a little squeamish about such things, this book gets the label "Queer Fantasy" slapped on it, gets published by a small press, and the upshot of it is that most straight readers have never heard of the darn thing. And that's a shame. This isn't just a good "gay book", it's a good book.
_Through a Brazen Mirror_ fleshes out the ballad "The Famous Flower of Serving-Men". It is compelling from the first few pages, wherein a young man stumbles into the King's kitchens during a rainstorm. He announces he's looking for a job, proclaims his robust health, and promptly faints. But the young man, William Flower, is more than he seems; his quiet diligence causes him to rise quickly through the ranks of the castle servants, until eventually he comes to the attention of the handsome young King, who is questioning his sexuality. Meanwhile, in a mysterious tower in the woods, a sorceress has foreseen that her daughter will cause her death. Since the rules of magic forbid killing one's own blood, the sorceress instead tries to destroy everything around her daughter, releasing plagues and storms upon the land. I'll warn you right now, don't expect a "fairy-tale" happy ending; Sherman's ending is sadder but much truer to life than the ballad's original ending. But she leaves one major plot point open to imagination, softening the tragedy a bit. And everyone is a little wiser at the end.
Delia Sherman writes in a lovely style of prose, atmospheric and somewhat archaic, reminding me of the early books of Patricia McKillip, before her work became more abstract. The magic in Sherman's world is not cheesy D-and-D stuff; it's the very sort of magic that medieval people actually believed in. And through it all, even though it's a sad story, Sherman weaves a delightful ribbon of dry humor. I very much enjoyed this book.