A desperate mother shoves her daughter into a tear in the world created by blood magic to save her from death at the hands of enemy soldiers. The brother of a dead ruler has to take his sister’s place as leader, and attempt uniting a crumbling country.

“All of life is change. One cannot hold onto past glory or strife. All of life leads to death. When one is not afraid of death, there is nothing that cannot be achieved.”

page 212

Add magic tied to the rise and fall of satellites, sentient (and deadly!) plants, and doppelgängers from other worlds to the mess? It’s glorious, bloody chaos.

Why is this on our bookshelf?

Aside from the fact that Kameron Hurley has won a Hugo for a blog post (she was, in fact, the first winner of a Hugo for a blog post) been a Nebula Award finalist, a Locust Award finalist, AND the Arthur C. Clarke Award finalist?

It has a place on our shelf because of its Gemmell Award nomination for the Morningstar Award (best debut in Fantasy Fiction)…. y’know, because all those nominations aren’t enough of a reason.

Rating (3 stars)

I kind of wish we had half-star ratings, because I feel this is really a 3.5 star, not a 3. It’s actually really close to a four-star review, but as much as I enjoyed spending time with The Mirror Empire, there were some things that kept me from really loving it.

I can’t quite get into my reasons why without laying out some major spoilers, but partly it’s because some of the plot devices felt a little…. off. Forced even, or misplaced. Like they were only there to flip a common trope on its head. That typically leaves me with an unfavorable reaction.

The other major part of my lower rating was that there was SO much story jammed into the book. I really felt The Mirror Empire could have been split into two books— more attention and detail could have been applied to what was there, instead of condensing it all, and mashing it into one book.

Complaints out of the way, there were some very interesting gender fluidity mechanics that had me hooked. I’d love to see that specific character developed more in later novels. Also, the magic system is incredible. It’s simple, but incredible. It would make for a very interesting modifier to a Dungeons and Dragons campaign.