Today, I finished The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley. I've heard so many glowing reviews of the book, though I've also seen quite a few less-than-glowing reviews. I was curious to find out for myself. In general, I'd say both types of reviews are accurate. The Mirror Empire was equal parts fascinating and frustrating.
Hurley crafted a great world. There are multiple universes, sentient plants, reversed gender roles, gender identity issues, and more factions than you can remember. The last sentence there sums up my issue with this book. It is not an easy read. You are thrown into a very unfamiliar world. Hurley doesn't hold your hand and doesn't give you common archetypes to fall back on. Personally, I prefer a few more familiar elements in my fantasy, but I also appreciate what Hurley did. The experience was kind of like reading Steven Erikson's Malazan series. You have to figure things out as you go.
I found the first half of this book difficult to get through because I didn't connect with the characters. Once I got to the second half, though, things started clicking. I can't say I liked the character, but Hurley created such a fascinating world that I wanted to know what was going to happen.
In summary, this book has a lot of flaws, but I agree with others who say Hurley is bringing new life and direction to the epic fantasy genre. This is not standard medieval fantasy. This is a completely alien world, more like science fiction in many respects. I think the execution could have been better, but I won't fault Hurley for taking on such a difficult task.
In all, it was not one of my favorites, but I'm glad I read it.