book reviews by Althea

Empire Ascendant – Kameron Hurley ****

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Empire Ascendant
Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The sequel to ‘The Mirror Empire.’
I found myself torn between saying, ‘Don’t read this one first; you’ll just be confused’ and saying, ‘Go ahead and don’t worry about the first one, you’re going to be confused anyway.’

Don’t get me wrong – I really, really like these books. But the scenarios Hurley gives us approach the complexity of the real world. The main world here is a big place, full of different countries, all of which have their own political situations and distinct, original cultures (not analogues of real-world societies).

But that main world’s not the only world. There are also the mirror worlds – not just one, but many! – and due to impending disaster, invasions and crossovers are both imminent and ongoing. (The catch? You can’t cross over unless your counterpart on the ‘other side’ is dead.) So there are different ‘versions’ of both countries and individual characters.

On top of all that, the power structures in all of these worlds depends on what satellite is ascendant at a certain time. (Each satellite imbues the people who are ‘attuned’ to it with ‘magical’ abilities.) This book takes place in the midst of a major shift – so even once you get a grasp on who’s in charge in any certain place, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be changing.

You will find the ‘Dramatic Personae’ useful. (I rarely do, but…)

With the impetus of certain death awaiting a world of the verge of apocalypse, citizens’ only hope is to escape to a ‘mirror’ world. This requires the murder of those on the other side. Of course, those wishing not to be invaded and killed are bound to fight back. There are plenty of people who will make desperate back-room deals, leaders who will give ruthless orders, and others who will simply take advantage of instability for their own gain. Pretty much no one at all here is a nice person. Survival requires a vicious edge. And plenty of people will die.

Recommended for fans of political-intrigue-driven fantasy who are up for a challenge.

Many thanks to Angry Robot and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

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