The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

The Mirror Empire by Kameron HurleyMirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
Series: The Worldbreaker Saga #1
Published by Angry Robot on September 4th, 2014
Pages: 544
Format: eARC

Thanks to Angry Robot for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


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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. 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.

This book was one of the most innovative, imaginative and memorable books I have read in a while. The world, magic, characters and politics are all strengths. Some magic comes with horrific costs, the politics run deep and the characters are well defined. I leave this book with such vivid images of the worlds, the cultures, the characters and the conflict. It is a rare book that can leave such an impression in one of these areas, and to find a book that is so strong across them all is just amazing.

Honestly, my first impression of Mirror Empire, was “Wow, there are a lot of terms and names to keep straight”. For some reason, the more foreign something sounds the longer it takes for me to fully commit to memory. So, my pace for reading this was definitely slower, especially at first. But, that is not a bad thing. Because while there was much to keep up with and learn, it all pays off in such a richly created world.

Before I started reading this, I saw another reader quite excited about the sentient trees. And as cool as that sounds like it could be, I have to admit to also having some fears, picturing of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes ensnarled into a fantasy world. It’s  a concept that could go amazingly well, or could go horribly wrong. Like many things in writing and fictional worlds, it all comes down to execution. And Hurley has proven she has some serious skill with execution. Mother nature is given a cruel and dangerous twist in this world, there are plants that can melt away your skin, pitcher plants that can devour people. And if you think you are safe because you don’t see any near by at the moment? Think again. Trees can walk, they can come to your supposed safe place and destroy you. Yeah, you’re not safe. These are not plants from some B-movie, these are the plants of your nightmares.

There has been a lot of buzz over Hurley’s gender reversals in this. Women definitely have the power in this, they are dominant and the males are in more submissive positions. With the power, also comes some prejudices by women for their male counterparts. And I love this about the book. But personally, I think if you reversed the genders in this, you would still have a fantastic fantasy world and story. I applaud the reversal, I am so glad it is there and I am even more thrilled that it pleases readers, that they think about and see the value in it. But I want take a moment to emphasize that that is not the only thing that gives this story strength. The world, the magic, everything is strong. And on top of just gender reversal, Hurley also added in additional genders and classifications of people. For example, in one society, there’s 5 genders: female assertive, female passive, male assertive, male passive and engendered. This adds a layer of complexity not just for the reader to keep straight, but also people from other societies to keep straight as well. It is considered quite rude to get it wrong (as one would expect).

There is so much to love in this book. It shows issues of slavery and war. The world has a deep history and the ability to be cruel. Oh, and the mirror worlds. Worlds that are the result of the butterfly effect, essentially. Little differences here and there resulting in a different history and a different world. It’s just fascinating. I enjoyed this book so much, and am really looking forward to reading the next. Highly recommend it.

25 thoughts on “The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley”

  1. Wow, very high praise. Good to see you enjoyed this so much – it seems to be receiving some very positive feedback. I must read it.
    Lynn 😀

  2. I’m looking forward to reading this soon! Every review I read seems to reveal something else that sounds really cool (sentient plants!) Everyone seemed to love it and looks like Kameron Hurley’s star will continue to rise after her Hugo wins.

    1. Look forward to seeing what you think of it! I think every review probably touches on something different because there is just SO MUCH in it! There’s no way to cover everything. I really think you’ll love it.

  3. Hmm, sentient trees huh? Sounds like something I would like. Are we talking Wizard of Oz trees ‘showing us how to get apples?’ =)

    I have only blogged for two years but this title BY FAR has the most early hype being built around it. Can’t wait to see how it does, I hope for the best.

    1. Blades of the Empire got a great deal of hype, but I think it was mainly from the publisher and then reviews didn’t support it. I mean it was good, but not nearly as great as they made it out to be. This is worthy of the hype!

  4. This will probably be my next book. I am so flipping excited to read it! Even the little things you mentioned like sentient plants have me salivating!! Glad you loved it, and I’m glad the reviews I’ve read are so consistent!

    1. I’ve tried to not look at too many reviews yet. I’ve seen the high star ratings, but not read the detailed reviews. Now that I’ve read it, I’m curious what others are saying. Look forward to your review of it!

  5. “innovative, imaginative and memorable” – that just about sums it up.

    Incredible world-building, amazing concepts of gender and relationships, and some really interesting characters. The whole idea of the hostile environment was really well done, but the bone trees were what wowed me the most. Damned creepy!

  6. *Cheers* So happy to see another Hurley fan! It sounds like Mirror Empire has a lot of the same themes as her Bel Dame Apocrypha series (God’s War being the first title), especially with the matriarchal domination of society. I’m so happy to hear that there are other really exciting aspects of Mirror Empire besides Hurley’s treatment of gender…how is it that in all the early reviews I’ve read of this one, no one else has mentioned sentient trees?! I NEED IT.

  7. Omg it does sound really amazing. I would love to see how it’s pulled off. I do have another book, Gods something. Should read that one too 😉

  8. Oh my goodness those trees sound horrific. Anya and I were just talking about this book today and how excited she is to read it and I was just saying how I didn’t plan to read it and now here you go making me second guess myself. Still though I’ll hold off for now until I’ve read plenty of the other books I haven’t gotten around to reading yet but I’ll consider adding this one to the list for sure.

    1. Ha! Well, the great thing about books is the words don’t change over time. It’ll be there waiting for you when you get to it. And sometimes the more you put it off, the less you have to wait for the next one. But definitely recommend getting to it eventually, well worth the read. 🙂

  9. I know this is really random but I was scrolling down your homepage and saw the closeup shot of this cover and doesn’t that female figure remind you of an anime like the suits the girls in the anime BubbleGum Crisis – Tokyo 2040 wear!?

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