The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley was one of my impulse books from work, something that sounded like it might be good. Now that I’ve finished it, I’m not entirely sure what I thought of the book, and I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series.
The storyline was good enough; three nations of the world are all endangered by the rising of one star, which in history has always heralded death and destruction. With its ascendance, all the parallel worlds are coming close together and the fabrics dividing them can be torn and bridged. The synopsis caught my interest, which was why I brought it home, but I’ll be honest, 100 pages in to the book, I felt like I’d been thrown into the ocean right on the edge of a hurricane. The book started with chaos, and it took several hundred pages before I was able to piece everything together and grasp what was going on. I think it didn’t help that there were several key characters to follow that would all mesh in the end, so it was relevant to show how they all got where they needed to be, but, I think it did make the book feel chaotic and like there was a little too much going on without enough connection.
Another thing that was irritating to me, though certainly just a minor thing, was the fluidity of gender. I know the author did this on purpose, but as the book didn’t actually tackle gender issues or even provide much discussion, to me, it was an unnecessary distraction. For one of the people groups, there were five genders to choose from, and each individual made the choice themselves. And I’m quite certain that throughout the book, there were characters that changed gender pronouns, and there was no discussion about it. One page it was she, the next it was he. And it was confusing and distracted me from the story. It is an interesting technique to use for a story that wants to look closely at gender and explore the question of biology vs. social construction, but, in order to do that, there has to be the discussion, and gender has to be a main theme of the book. As I said, the way Hurley used gender fluidity seemed to serve more as a distraction than any kind of literary or critical thinking technique.
The Mirror Empire is book one in the Worldbreaker Saga, and I’ll admit I’m torn about whether I want to pursue the series or not. There are a lot of questions left unanswered at the end (as it should be for a series), and, despite distractions and the general chaos of the first book, it was interesting, and I did enjoy the read. But do I want to spend the money on a series of who knows how many books? I’m not sure yet. (Actually, I don’t even know if the next book has been published yet. I guess that would possibly answer my question, for the time being.) I think it’s a series I’d pursue at the library, or borrow, not one I’m committed to spending money on. Not yet, anyway. But, it wasn’t so bad that I won’t give the author another book to win my attention.