Book review: The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

the mirror empire coverThe Mirror Empire

Author: Kameron Hurley

Series: Worldbreaker Saga (book 1)

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Angry Robot

Release date: September 2, 2014 (North America); September 4, 2014 (UK)

Note: This book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley.


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.

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In the end, one world will rise – and many will perish.

What I Liked:

Truthfully? I liked pretty much everything about this book. For serious. It is fascinating. The premise, the worldbuilding, the characters, the plot — all of it. It’s very well put together.

The setting alone makes this book worth reading. This is probably one of the best examples of worldbuilding I’ve ever come across (and I read a lot of SF/F, heh). No, really. The countries and cultures — they’re all so different, but they’re all intertwined. Their interactions were fascinating — and realistic, really. I mean, okay, so no “real world” culture has five genders or whatnot, but how the people of different countries/cultures view each other has a very realistic tone to it. It’s very much “they’re so strange, we do things so much better because we don’t do that.” (You know how it is.) Each culture had depth and nuance; nothing seemed like it was made up at the last minute.

Also, it had parallel universes. Which is awesome.

The characters were the same — nuanced and layered. This book has an ensemble cast, but unlike a lot of other fantasies I’ve read, each main character in the ensemble actually has a starring role in his/her own section of the plot.

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There are quests for each of them, though they all have the same goal (preventing the destruction of their world). I quite like these characters. They were different, each with their own set of strengths and weaknesses — no Mary Sues/Marty Stus here. Each character gave us a glimpse of a slice of life in this world. I liked all of the characters, but I’d have to say Ahkio, Kai of Dhai, was my favorite, simply because he’s a man in a position of leadership in a matriarchal society. (Seriously, this world is fascinating.)

This book’s magic system is different from any I’ve come across. This world (this is a second world fantasy) has a binary star and four “satellites” (which I believe are stars as well). Those stars — Sina, Para, Tira, and Oma — are what power the gifted’s magic.

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When their satellites are ascendant, they have use of their powers. When their satellites are descendant or have “set,” they no longer have access to their powers and therefore have no magic. Interesting, right?

This book is a mix of magic, politics, religion, and power. Which I also liked.

What I Didn’t Like:

I have to wait a year for the sequel.

My Thoughts:

You guys, I can’t even tell you how much I liked this book. It was long, yes, but I didn’t mind it because there was just so much awesome happening.

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I classify it as a fantasy, but it could also be considered science fiction, what with the parallel universes and binary star system and all. And what if the satellites aren’t stars at all, but are actually satellites (of the man-made variety) of some sort? Either way, it’s a fascinating world populated with fascinating characters. (I’m using the world “fascinating” far too much in this review, aren’t I?)

I cannot wait to come back to the Worldbreaker universe and find out what the characters are up to. The sad part is, I have to wait a year to find out!


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