Review: The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
Epic Fantasy – Worldbreaker Saga #1
“Logic?” Dasai said. “People do not take actions based on logic. We make choices based on emotion. Every one of us. Then we use what we call logic to justify our choices. People don’t do things that make sense.”
I tried to start this review with a plot and character introduction, as I usually do… and then found that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t succinctly summarize the premise of The Mirror Empire. Suffice to say, The Mirror Empire is the most complex and imaginative take on epic fantasy I have read in a long, long time. It follows a wide cast of characters with disparate story arcs and from a variety of backgrounds. It has alternate realities, blood magic, brutal wars and genocide, assassins, sentient, carnivorous plant life, people who ride bears… and that’s only scratching the surface.
I found that the strengths and weaknesses of this book mirrored each other (ha… ha… ha). The Mirror Empire doesn’t rely on the tropes that usually help us intuit what is going on in an epic fantasy, and because of that it takes longer to make sense of the setting, characters, and system of magic. There are political groups, ethnic backgrounds, governing and military systems, religious beliefs, family structures, all with their own new and inventive twists. The result is a profusion of fresh and fascinating ideas, all grand in scope – but also a narrative that embraces breadth at the cost of an indepth look into any particular elements of the world building.
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Review: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Science Fiction – #1 of 3, Imperial Radch Trilogy
“If you’re going to do something that crazy, save it for when it’ll make a difference, Lieutenant Skaaiat had said, and I had agreed. I still agree. The problem is knowing when what you are about to do will make a difference… The single word that directs a person’s fate and ultimately the fates of those she comes in contact with is of course a common subject of entertainments and moralizing stories, but if everyone were to consider all the possible consequences of all one’s possible choices, no one would move a millimeter, or even dare to breathe for fear of the ultimate results.”
I already expressed some pre-review excitement on this blog. That entry can basically be summed up with the following:
- Ancillary Justice is a book about a SENTIENT SPACESHIP that enjoys SINGING
- And it’s amazing
Ancillary Justice takes place during two different periods of our starship protagonist Breq’s existence. Created as a tool for the expansionist Radch Empire, one timeline focuses on her experiences as a segment of twenty bodies (ancillaries) enforcing for the Empire on an annexed planet. In the second timeline, she has only a single body, and she is outside of Radch territory and on a mission of her own. What happened to Breq and what she is doing now are gradually revealed in an exciting and fantastic space opera, and possibly my new favourite book ever.
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Review: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
Science Fiction – Hainish Cycle #4 (but a perfect standalone read)
“I certainly wasn’t happy. Happiness has to do with reason, and only reason earns it. What I was given was the thing you can’t earn, and can’t keep, and often don’t even recognize at the time; I mean joy.”
I thought that instead of writing a review here, I might just say “Ursula K. Le Guin is the best,” followed by a hundred exclamation marks. It’s still pretty tempting but I am going to try to put some of my excitement into actual logical sentences.
Your two-sentence plot synopsis: Genly Ai travels to icy Gethen, a planet whose inhabitants are neither male nor female, to try and obtain their membership in an intergalactic political collective. With his mission in danger of failing, Ai is forced to rely on his only Gethenian ally, Estraven, to guide him through the dangers of both Gethen’s politics and its brutal, unending winter.
Continue reading Book Review: The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K. Le Guin)