Book Review: “The Mirror Empire” by Kameron Hurley

The Mirror EmpireThe Mirror Empire was an incredibly difficult book for me to get through. It had nothing to do with the subject matter and nothing to do with the quality of the story, as both are wonderfully fantastic, but everything to do with my having not read a true epic fantasy book in a very, very long time prior to picking it up. The last six months of 2014 were filled with books that moved quickly, had lightweight world building, and in general were not very hard to comprehend or digest. To go from that straight into Kameron Hurley’s fantastic, complicated, intense, and frankly, rather weird storytelling was a challenge, a big challenge, but one I would not give back for anything.

For a decent amount of time went by where I constantly admired the cover art for The Mirror Empire, but was unsure if I should pick it up to read. It took a majority of the authors on my Twitter feed raving about the book over and over again for me to bite the bullet and take the plunge. Just as I realized if all the authors I loved were going to love this book I should probably read it as well, it happened to show up on sale for my Kindle, so I had the bonus of trying it without paying full price.

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.

The plot of The Mirror Empire revolves around two parallel universes colliding with each other as a satellite known as the dark star, among other names, rises into the sky giving greater power to certain magic users and taking away power from others. There are invading armies, warring kingdoms, feuding families, mysterious powers, killer plants, and so many other strange things in this book. One of the most interesting things about The Mirror Empire is the gender and sexuality orientations. Beyond the traditional male and female, half a dozen other options exist, all of which mix together into some interesting and dynamic family situations. I thought these new ideas on gender and sexuality were well thought-out and added a very rich layer to the story being told.

In this book your ideas of what is acceptable and what’s not are going to be challenged. The gender-bending moments, as well as the way people interact with each other really push the boundaries that most people are going to be comfortable with having. It took me a little while to settle into the book as a result, but I think by the time I finished I was glad I kept going and had the opportunity to see Kameron Hurley do what she is doing with the book. I think that the genre is better off for what she’s attempting with this trilogy.

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Looking Back at January 2015

From the time I finished my 101st book of 2014 to the writing of this post I confess to taking a very big break in regards to reading. I walked away from my Kindle, walked away from the blog for the most part, and generally just let my brain decompress. The last three months of 2014 were an absolute grind in order to meet my reading goal and I needed some serious time off.

So, what did I do? I picked up a book I had been wanting to read for months and read it at the most leisurely pace I could manage. Some days I didn’t read at all, some days I read for ten minutes, some days for half an hour. Not once did I force myself to read unless I was in the mood. I have no specific “number of books” reading goal for 2015, so making January a very light month mattered little in the grand scheme of things.

Here are the books I read in January:

As I tend to do every so often I also read some short fiction in January:

Despite reading only two full-length novels in January I feel like I got to read two really wonderful books without rushing my way through the pages. I had heard fantastic things about The Mirror Empire and wanted to wait until I could really focus on it before picking it up to read. Firefight is the sequel to Steelheart that I’ve been waiting eagerly to read.

Hindsight really is 20/20 and if I’m honest with myself I should have waited a little longer to read The Mirror Empire as it is a dense, deep, and very elaborate tale. I read little to no true epic fantasy in 2014 and making The Mirror Empire my first foray back into that realm was probably a poor decision. The learning curve on that book is immense for the first 100 pages or so, especially if you are out of practice with that kind of huge world building and cast of characters. I loved the book though, so all is well that ends well.

For February I’ll be trying to get back on the horse with a  book per week in order to keep myself in a pile of enough material to begin writing reviews again. I’m hoping to find the time to read Golden Son, The Autumn Republic, and The Mortal Heart if I can.