The Mirror Empire: Worldbreaker Saga 1

Paperback | August 26, 2014

byKameron Hurley

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A stunning new epic fantasy from two-time Hugo Award winner Kameron Hurley.

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. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy.

Stretching from desolate tundra to steamy, semi-tropical climes seething with sentient plant life, this is an epic tale of blood mages and mercenaries, emperors and priestly assassins who must unite to save a world on the brink of 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 to save his skin; 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.

File Under: Fantasy [ Orphaned Child | World at War | Blood Magic | The Fluidity of Gender]

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From the Publisher

A stunning new epic fantasy from two-time Hugo Award winner Kameron Hurley.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 nothin...

Kameron Hurley is the author of the novels God's War, Infidel, and Rapture, a science-fantasy noir series which earned her the Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer and the Kitschy Award for Best Debut Novel. She is a two-time Hugo Award winner (Best Fan Writer and Best Related Work) and she has been a finalist for the Nebula Award and the Locus Award. Her latest novel, The Mirror Empire, will be published by Angr...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:544 pages, 8.48 × 5.48 × 1.45 inPublished:August 26, 2014Publisher:Watkins MediaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0857665561

ISBN - 13:9780857665560

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Read this book Brilliant. One of the best fantasy books I've read in a very long time. Hurley plays with gender, cultural conflict and selfhood with exceptional deftness.
Date published: 2015-01-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Ambitious, awesome, imaginative, and exhausting in equal measure There aren't too many books that make me take a step back and say "Wow" but this is one of them. The Mirror Empire had an absolutely amazing beginning, one of the best opening chapters I've read in a very long time, and just kind of steamrolled ahead from there. What Kameron Hurley has crafted here in the first book of The Worldbreaker Saga is definitely different, even challenging in places (I found myself fighting to catch up and find my place more than once in the narrative), but what I took away most is the feeling of being completely awed by the depth of her imagination. This is an epic fantasy in the truest sense of the term, with some really stunning ideas on gender, roles, and relationships; all set within a naturally hostile, almost post-apocalyptic environment; and framed by an intricate theory of mirror worlds and alternate realities. Let me break it down a little bit, and talk about each of those points above. First of all, I want to touch on the challenging nature of the narrative. Here we have a new world to understand that's different than anything we've read before. We have multiple races and societies, with twisted/altered mirror counterparts, and a complete subversion of gender and gender roles. Hurley really just drops all of this on the reader, and doesn't bother with any sort of info-dumps to hand-holding. The learning curve is immediate and immense, and she layers on new challenges throughout. The ideas are so fascinating, though, you can't help but eagerly anticipate the next piece of the puzzle. The challenge never gets frustrating or tiresome, and even if you need to flip back and reread a few sections as you go, there is an ultimate payoff for that effort. As for the world-building, it's what immediately differentiates the novel, right from that opening chapter. Here we have carnivorous, overbearing, murderous plants and trees that have to be constantly fought back with sword, fire, and salting of the earth. The concept of the bone trees alone, incorporating the splintered bones of their victims into a sort of impenetrable bark, is as stunning as it is creepy. Even the buildings of Hurley's world are a product of that environment, with a clear distinction between heathen constructions of stone, and more enlightened halls of living, breathing, ever-growing flora. Above that world of eco-horrors is a series of moons in the sky, orbiting the world in uncertain cycles of years or even centuries, and bestowing magical talents upon those who are able to draw upon each. Beneath those moons, carving out their own place in the world, are villages and temples that are almost idyllic, and easily the most familiar representations of the genre. I could write for days and not even begin to explain what Hurley has done with gender and gender roles here, but it's something worth exploring and experiencing. For the most part, this is a world of matriarchal societies, with women taking on the roles of rulers, warriors, and more. That, however, is a gross over-simplification. There are as many as six genders in the worlds of The Mirror Empire, depending upon which society we're talking about. There are assertive males and females, passive males and females, those who are ungendered, and a rare few who can shift and flow between genders. Just to confuse matters further, relationships here are multi-layered and dynamic, with polyamorous marriages involving multiple husbands and wives the norm, and sexual orientations within those marriages just as fluid. There are a few deliberately shocking moments, but they are purely for narrative effect - there's no heavy-handed commentary here about feminism, love, tolerance, or anything of the like, despite what you might expect. As for the mirror worlds themselves, they are both the most fascinating and most complex element of the tale. The idea of parallel worlds is hardly new, and neither is the idea of marauding armies marching from one world to another. However, what's unique about Hurley's tale is the way in which she plays with the idea of alternate worlds, demonstrating how differently each has evolved or progressed as a result of decisions or events in the past. What's more, she has established her worlds in such a way that each individuals has a mirror world counterpart, with whom they cannot coexist. So, you not only get the idea of parallel worlds and alternate histories, but doppelgangers who have usurped their counterparts and insinuated themselves into other worlds, twisting empires into driving towards their own defeat. The story itself does falter a bit under the weight of its own imagination early in the second half, but Hurley pulls things back into order with a series of climaxes that begin driving the tale towards a concluding clash of cultures and societies. The Mirror Empire is ambitious, awesome, imaginative, and exhausting in equal measure. There is a lot of novelty to it, yes, but it's testament to Hurley's talent that the novelty never wears, and the imagination never ceases to amaze. It's by no means a light read or a quick one, but precisely the kind of story you don't mind settling down to understand and appreciate.
Date published: 2014-11-03