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 a...

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 ...

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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

Extra Content

Editorial Reviews

Nominated for the Locus Award for Best FantasyShorlisted for the Gemmell Morningstar AwardSTARRED REVIEW: “This is a hugely ambitious work, bloody and violent, with interestingly gender-flipped politics and a host of factions to keep straight, as points of view switch often. Although it is a challenging read, the strong narrative thread in this new series from Hurley (God’s War) pulls readers through the imaginative tangle of multiple worlds and histories colliding.”– Library JournalSTARRED REVIEW: “Hurley (Rapture) reuses old tropes to excellent effect, interweaving them with original elements to create a world that will fascinate and delight her established fans and appeal to newcomers. Readers will blaze through this opening instalment and eagerly await the promised sequel.”– Publishers Weekly“The Mirror Empire is an extraordinary novel. The scale and invention here makes it essential reading but the characters make it remarkable. None of them are heroes and none of them have the comforting sense of having read the book they’re in. They’re all flawed, terrified people doing what they can to survive. Seeing them struggle even as the stakes are raised makes for a reading experience as packed as it is tense. Book 2 can’t get here fast enough.”– Alasdair Stuart“Taking epic fantasy down challenging and original paths. Thoughtful and thought-provoking with every twist and turn.”– Juliet E. McKenna“Hurley intelligently tackles issues of culture and gender, while also throwing in plenty of bloodthirsty action and well-rounded characters. This is a fresh, exciting fantasy epic that’s looking to the future and asking important questions. 4****/5”– SFX magazine‘‘The novel achieves what the most important fantasy strives for: it gives us a world the like of which we have never quite seen before, but that offers us some often unpleasant and provocative shocks of recognition.’’– Gary K. Wolfe, for Locus magazine“The Mirror Empire is a fresh, vigorous, and gripping entrant into the epic fantasy genre, able to stand toe-to-toe with any of the heavyweight series out there. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough.”– SF Revu“With vividly inventive world building and a fast-paced plot, The Mirror Empire opens a smart, brutal, and ambitious epic fantasy series. Book two is already on my must-read list.”– Kate Elliott, author of the Spiritwalker series“For me [The Mirror Empire] did all the things a fantasy should do – holding our own societies up to the light by reflecting off worlds that are very different. Add in a magic system where the users are only powerful some of the time, and semi sentient vegetation that is possibly more of a threat than the magic users, and I happily sank into this book with a satisfied sigh.”– Francis Knight, author of Fade to Black“Bold, merciless, and wildly inventive, Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire begins an epic tale of worlds at war that will linger long in readers’ imaginations.  If you’re looking for original and challenging fantasy, this is definitely the series for you.”– Courtney Schafer, author of The Whitefire Crossing“There’s a powerful yet elegant brutality in The Mirror Empire that serves notice to traditional epic fantasy: move over, make way, an intoxicating new blend of storytelling has arrived. These are pages that will command your attention.”– Bradley Beaulieu, author of The Lays of Anuskaya trilogy“Hurley has bitten off an awful lot with her ambitious The Mirror Empire. And for those of us who are bored with a linear and predictable narrative, this is a very good thing. Hurley seems determined to supplant nearly every fantasy troupe, even down to her five-gendered social structure with group marriage and funerary cannibalism. These bold rejections of what we take for granted in our own society are illuminating in Hurley’s hands.”– Sword & Laser“In the two worlds of The Mirror Empire, we get Deadly Plants, Blood Magic, and yes, Brutal Women. The Mirror Empire is both a chance for fantasy fans to get to know Hurley’s writing, and for previous fans of her work to see what she can do in a new vein. And for readers new to her work, this is in many ways the best place to start. 4.5****/5.”– Paul Weimer, SF Signal“The Mirror Empire takes look at epic fantasy patriarchy & gives it a firm kick in the balls… [it] will be the most important book you read this year.”– Alex Ristea, Ristea’s Reads“With her new epic fantasy series, Hurley has shown that she is no one trick pony. The Mirror Empire is a fresh, vigorous, and gripping entrant into the epic fantasy genre, able to stand toe-to-toe with any of the heavyweight series out there.”– SF Revu