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Mirror Empire Paperback – August 20, 2014
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Nominated for the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Shorlisted for the Gemmell Morningstar Award; "With vividly inventive world building and a fast-paced plot, The Mirror Empireopens a smart, brutal, and ambitious epic fantasy series. Book two is already on my must-read list." - Kate Elliott, author of the Spiritwalker series; "The Mirror Empire is the most original fantasy I've read in a long time, set in a world full of new ideas, expanding the horizons of the genre. A complex and intricate book full of elegant ideas and finely-drawn characters." - Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of The Shadows of the Apt series and finalist for the 2014 Gemmell Legend Award; "The Mirror Empire is epic in every sense of the word. Hurley has built a world - no, worlds - in which cosmology and magic, history and religion, politics and prejudice all play crucial roles. Prepare yourself for sentient plants, rifts in the fabric of reality, and remarkable powers that wax and wane with the stars themselves. Forget all about tentative, conventional fantasy; there's so much great material in here that Hurley needs more than one universe in order to fit it all in." - Brian Staveley, author of The Emperor's Blades; STARRED 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 Journal; STARRED 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; "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; "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; "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; "One of the most stunning epic fantasies I've read this year. The setting is unique and plays a major role in the story. A spectacular novel." - Books Without Any Pictures; "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; "There is so much to talk about in The Mirror Empire - whether you stick to the complexities and layers of its unfolding plot, or delve into its ideas about family and sexuality and human intimacy - and it's Hurley's staunch insistence on following her own drumbeat that has resulted in such a rewarding reading experience." - SFReviews.net; "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. 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." - In Case of Survival; "At its best this novel is as good as anything I have read this year. Expect to hear 'ambitious' a lot; I couldn't imagine the mental and physical mapping it would take to hold all these pieces together but hold together they do. The world is alive, the world is unique, and the world is actually built rather than borrowed." - Fantasy Review Barn; "The Mirror Empire is an interesting, raw-nerved work of epic fantasy built from the ground up...By the end of this first volume in her new series, the author leaves each of the main characters with a satisfying conclusion while putting to each of them new problems... May the author not keep us waiting too long for the second instalment". - Borrowed Worlds; "If I had known how good The Mirror Empire was going to be, I would have waited until after the sale and paid full price as a show of support to the author. As it was, I bought one of her other books to make up for it". - 20Four12; "Astoundingly inventive." - The Illustrated Page; "The Mirror Empire is a fast-paced and exciting read, and the start of quite possibly one of the greatest political dramas I have ever picked up." - Coffee on My Keyboard; "I loved this book. It's a wonderful book. Kameron Hurley's The Mirror Empire is essentially what I wanted Game of Thrones to be: it's a truly epic fantasy which grapples with fraught ethical questions while immersing me in a meticulously built out world of wonder." - Clatter and Clank; "There is plenty of originality here, and a vivid, sweeping quality of culture that cannot go unnoticed and unrecognized. In terms of worldbuilding, it was top notch, and without a trace of the western aligned molds fantasy so often falls so neatly into." - The Waking Den; "The world-building is incredibly creative and, sometimes, brutal. I love it." - Mental Megalodon; "One of the best epic fantasy novels I've read in a long time. It's the sort of fantasy with the perfect balance of violence and horror that gives you chills and thrills down your spine." - Fairy Bookmother; "A saga that fascinates mainly by its striking and original setting. An unstoppable mix of action, mystery, magic and adventures." - El Caballero del Arbol Sonriente; "Hurley forcefully flips every genre trope in her sights to create a work simply exploding with a kind of anarchic, creative ferocity. This is not your grandad's epic fantasy." - SFF180; "Totally fascinating!" - To Boldly Nerd
From the Back Cover
On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event, an orphan is ripped from her world and forced to take up arms in a genocidal war as old as the universe itself.
In the end, only one world will rise - and many will perish.
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I think this book has a lot of merit. The magic system is relatively fresh. The world has varied geography and languages and history and culture. There are some interesting commentaries on tribalism, mixed children, dehumanization, gender, and what makes effective leadership. There are some interesting omissions -- no horses! Almost no rape! (those are not equivalent in weight, but about equally common in genre) I really enjoyed the worldbuilding on a lot of levels, although I am not living anywhere with that many murderous trees. The arctic wastes for me!
All of that said, this book is unremittingly, unflinchingly bloody. Of our four main viewpoint characters, the body counts are:
* Hundreds, plus at least one little kid
* Thousands of refugees, hundreds of soldiers
* Around ten, but he wishes it were so much more, bloody mayhem is way more fun than anything else in life.
* Maybe only a couple, and this lack is what makes him a weak leader
So, last week I went on a twitter rant about how if your book has more than 500 pages, you really need to be justifying this with half-a-dozen viewpoints or a sweeping generational story?
Be careful what you wish for. By my rough count, this book had 8-10 viewpoint characters. Some of them die relatively quickly, but it's a LOT to keep track of. I thought maybe some of them could have been cut without affecting the entirety of the story.
One thing that is really going to help you if you read this book is understanding right up front it's about parallel worlds. I think Hurley wants you to pick that up as you go, but it makes the first quarter of the book massively confusing because sometimes you switch worlds and think you are just switching viewpoint characters, and BONUS POINTS for the characters in all the worlds all have the same name, but different circumstances. So, um, sorry if that's a spoiler, but I don't think it's a super major one.
Read if: You like books that acknowledge and depict the hell of war. You also liked the God's War books by Hurley. You are interested in how patterns of oppression mark patterns of dehumanization.
Skip if: You do not want to read a book with a cast of thousands of dead people. You like your palace politics small-scale. You are annoyed by stupidly stubborn characters driving the plot.
Read also: Glen Cook's Black Company books.
Unfortunately, I just never really cared about any of the characters. It is hard to put my finger on it, because the different characters clearly had unique personalities and voices of their own. The problem was not in the writing style of the author, or even in the plotting of the story. But by the end of the first book, I just did not care enough about any of them to pick up the next book to find out what happened, even though the book ended with clear cliffhangers.
There are a lot of significant characters and Hurley does a good job with characterization, but I will say that the sheer number of them meant that it was a little hard for me to keep track of everyone. The list of characters in the back helped some, but in the end I just had to commit to working a little harder as I read.
The weakest link is once again the plot - while I can't say that the events of the early parts of the book are unimportant, because I think they are both in terms of the overall series plot arc and of characterization, the most interesting stuff happened very quickly at the end, and I felt like the story ended when I was just getting really hooked. It's definitely going to make me want the next book, but it does mean that The Mirror Empire stands poorly on its own. So if you're the type of reader to prefer more resolution in your series books, you probably won't be happy.
In any case I'm quite excited for Empire Ascendant - too bad I'm traveling when it comes out, or I'd preorder it. I'll just have to hit up a bookstore once I'm settled.