The Mirror Empire Author: Kameron Hurley Series: Worldbreaker Saga 1 Publisher: Angry Robot Books, August 26, 2014 (US/Canada print/digital)
September 4, 2014 (UK print): Format: Trade Paperback and eBook, 544 pages List Price: $14.99 (print) ISBN: 9780857665560 (print) Review Copy: Reviewer’s Own
From the award-winning author of God’s War comes a stunning new series…
On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.
In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war, a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.
Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.
In the end, one world will rise – and many will perish.
The Mirror Empire is the first novel in the Wordlbreaker Saga by Kameron Hurley. What happens in a society shaped by the powers granted by the moons in the sky when a moon not seen for 2,000 years begins to wax again in the sky? The story follows a young girl as she searches for a role to fill and her missing mother as well as the Kai of the Dhai people who have been oppressed for generations as they try to cope with the sudden upheavals. Through political intrigue, assassination, and shifting alliances the story tackles a number of dark human struggles through the play of aliens and foreign cultural narratives.
I was first introduced to Hurley’s work through her Bel Dame Apocrypha trilogy. I have been hooked on her writing since. My partner argues against the rise of the grimdark fantasy as something that is overblown and often needlessly depressing, but I think it is writers like Hurley who remind me why I enjoy it.
In The Mirror Empire, Hurley continues to impress with her world building and ability to create social and magical systems that are reminiscent of other works in the genre, but still uniquely her own. This work is definitely more epic in scope at 544 pages than the physically lighter Bel Dame Apocrypha series. The extra space is welcome to be able to explore the growth of several characters and the slow reveal of the scope of the story, but as with many epics that means the story often wanders and the tight story structure I am used to from this author was not as present here.
My real struggle, and I am a huge epic fantasy nut, is in keeping track of which character I am following at any given time and how their storyline fits into the big picture. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone by giving away too much on the front end. Suffice to say it was not an insurmountable barrier and perhaps if I read at a more human pace I wouldn’t have gotten confused.
If you’re interested in reading about female centered cultures with gender fluid characters and polyandry galore then I think you’re in for quite a ride with the Worldbreaker Saga. Look for The Empire Ascendant: Worldbreaker Saga 2 in October 2015.
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