On October 6, Angry Robot Books releases the second volume in Kameron Hurley’s Worldbreaker Saga, titled Empire Ascendant. In recognition of the twelve weeks or so until that happens, I’ve decided to host a reread for The Mirror Empire, the first book in the trilogy.
It should go without saying that there be spoilers from here on out. I’m going more detailed on the prologue, with the other chapters to remind folks who haven’t read the book before Empire Ascendant’s release what happened. You can also read my original review of The Mirror Empire here.
I hope to cover a few chapters a week to meet the release date, reviewing the major plot points and adding a little bit of commentary. The major player here is YOU. Leave your comments and discuss, discuss, discuss.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The prologue is easily the most important part of the novel. So much so I recommend you reread it after you finish the book, there are just that many bits of information that you probably won’t get the first time around.
The main character is Lilia, a young girl living in the woodlands, where her mother is a blood witch who puts out bowls of blood for the boars who patrol the thorn fence that keeps their village safe. And we get the great line “If you fed enough blood to a thing, her mother said, it would do all you asked.”
Lilia’s childhood is shattered by a really bad thing that happens one autumn day. She is playing alone, pretending to be the Dhai hero Faith Ahya, jumping off an outcrop and hoping when she jumped off that she could fly.
Then she tries to free the treegliders (I picture flying squirrels) that get impaled on the thorn fence. Her arms, scarred from giving blood to the boars, wave as she cries “Take me, take me! Let them go.”
Then the bad thing happens, in the form of warriors mounted on forked-tongue bears, carrying branches imbued with the power of Tira, the green star that gives those who can channel its power control over life and growth.
The Dhai who live in the valley are conscripting woodlanders for their armies. This time they charge though the thorn fence.
Lilia wants to help the treegliders but is overcome with fear of the warriors and their bears, then says to herself “I am a terrible coward . . . Now everyone will know.”
The village is teeming with life, protected by blood-drinking boars, a thorn fence, and a dense web of what must be spider or caterpillar silk.
But Lilia finds it all on fire. Her mother is there, facing off against the bear-riding Dhai warriors, using her blood magic to summon a tree that spits acid on the invaders. And dissolves Lilia’s right foot.
Her mother hides Lilia away in a discarded cocoon (how big do the moths grow here?) and marks her wrist with a trefoil, thanks to Tira’s power. Then she runs off to fight the valley Dhai.
She comes back covered in blood and with that blood opens a gateway to another world, like the one where they live but with a lavender blue sky instead of the amber one she knows.
The Dhai leader, the Kai, crushes Lilia’s mother with a blow from her weapon then tries to go after Lilia, but she can’t cross over into the other world. She leaves Lilia with these words: “Oma is rising, and we will rise with it.”
She wakes up in this strange other world, alone and with one foot ruined. She meets Kalinda, a woman who knew her mother (Nava), and who takes her to the Temple of Oma for treatment for her foot. Lilia ends up being a novice there and meets the Kai, who looks like the woman who invaded her village but . . . Lilia is really confused now. Are these the same people who were kidnapping children from her village?
Kalinda tells her not to talk about her life before. She spends a decade in the Temple of Oma, doing menial labor, as an orphan with no magical talent. By this time, Tira has descended and Para has risen. This star is blue and is associated with breath. She makes a friend in Roh, who can channel Para’s power.
And at age 15, she decides she will be brave. She has not forgotten the promise to her mother, that they will be reunited. She asks Roh to help her find some mention of the trefoil her mother marked into her wrist the day they were separated. And stops having nightmares about the night a bloody Dhai army burned her village.
* * *
Lots of character details here. Sweet girl who wants to fly, is willing to sacrifice to save others, and wants to be brave. The magic system is laid out–power is based on stars that rise and fall, and you have power as long as your star is in the sky. Mirror worlds where people look the same but aren’t necessarily just like their counterparts (see the Kai in particular). And weird ecology–hostile trees, big bugs. All in all a powerful start to a fantasy trilogy.
If you have a digital or print copy of the book, please read along and comment. Available in paperback, e-book, and audiobook via Amazon or wherever you get your books.