the-mirror-empire-by-kameron-hurley-cover-artKameron Hurley wrote a book called God’s War. It won her the 2011 Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer, presented by the British Fantasy Society, and the 2011 Kitschies for Best Debut Novel. It was also nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the British Science Fiction Award, the Nebula award, shortlisted for a Locus Award for Best Debut Novel, and made the Tiptree Award Honor List. In other words, Hurley wrote a book that a lot of people thought was the cat’s pajamas. I was one of them.

God’s War had some problems though. It featured one of the clumsiest opening acts I’ve ever read in such an accomplished novel. Hurley wrote such a strange world, with a character that was so immersed in it, that trying to get the reader up to speed was nearly impossible without tripping over the author’s scaffolding. I’ve subsequently started calling this kind of sequence in a novel, the gauntlet. Because once you get through the gauntlet, God’s War is like mainlining gunpowder and then lighting a match, only to find out matches and gunpowder don’t even exist.

This brings me to Mirror Empire, Hurley’s much anticipated new epic fantasy novel. It begins with Lilia, daughter to a powerful blood mage, who is sent through a portal by her mother to escape the warlord invading their village. Fast forward a dozen years or so and Lilia is now a servant in the Kai’s (ruler) household, surrounded by powerful jistas (wizards?) who draw their power from waxing and waning satellites (stars? planets?). Depending on where their satellite is in orbit, the power level of the jista varies. This nation, known as the Dhai, is predicated on peace. To even touch another person without consent is a grave social gaffe. When a dignitary from Saiduan comes to Dhai to plead for their assistance against a foreign invader, Lilia is confronted with her past and given a chance to find her mother. < Read More >