The Mirror Empire (Worldbreaker Saga #1)
By: Kameron Hurley
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
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.
Another one of those books that has been sitting on my TBR queue for a few years now. I admit, the first thing that caught my attention was the awesome cover art–done by artist Richard Anderson–but the premise of the series sounds very interesting too, with fractured countries and stars rising and falling and bring together parallel universes. I finally got around to reading this book (hurray! I’m on a roll this year getting around to the books sitting on my TBR pile the longest) 🙂
On the things I did like about this book, I thought the world-building was very interesting. People riding on bears and dogs, societies were matriarchial instead of patriarchial, warrior-based societies and religious groups, doppelgangers…the blood magic intrigued me the most, as did the concept of having the gift to manipulate blood magic, not to mention the parallel worlds that begin to come to the fore as the story progressed. The only thing I could’ve lived without was the cannibalism, but anyway…Things do get a little crazy in the latter half of the novel as parallel worlds and conflicting interests begin to clash in earnest, and things honestly do get lost in the plot (I think somewhere around the midway point I started wondering if the book was just trying to be too much in one go) but there is some pay-off, especially with regards to the blood magic and what it can really do, which was pretty exciting to read.
This book is dark though. It was described as “Game of Thrones meets Fringe“, which it is (never watched Fringe but I know what it was about), but in some ways it reminded me more of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson in that it can be really bleak and dark. It makes the point that these worlds are pretty brutal but I was maybe a third into the novel when I was starting to feel a little put-out reading this book as the story wasn’t really going anywhere and I’m just being slapped with events of rape and genocide. (Perhaps as a related note, I wasn’t enthralled by the one Malazan book that I read so that is perhaps also an indication of how I was going to feel about this book).
Unfortunately the characters didn’t help either. Zezili felt a little try-hard with her role of the dominant, tough general but underneath it she comes across as flippant (and may I say out of her depth? Girl wasn’t even trying to understand the ramnifications during one conversation about the parallel worlds) and is all-around horrible (Man or woman, her teatment of her husband is shite). I had no sympathy for her at the end when she realised she was nothing more than a pawn and wanted out *shrugs* The stories of other characters–Roh and Ahkio namely as they had a lot of POV time–started off reasonably interesting but pewtered out at the end that I didn’t really care for them. Lilia had her moments of irritating teenager “I do what I want (even though it’ll be very dangerous)” but she was the most interesting storyline for me because it tied in directly to the blood magic and what was going on with the parallel worlds.
So overall The Mirror Empire was promising in premise but in the end felt too much in one go. I was veering towards a 2-star rating but it bounced up a bit after that climax and the unveiling of what Lilia can really do. I’m happy to finally have read it and gotten it off my TBR pile but I don’t think I’ll be checking out the rest of the series, it’s just not my cup of tea (nor has it fared well in memory in the months since reading it).