When I finished The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley, one word kept screaming through my mind: Epic! Epic! Epic! I wanted to shout to the world that this is what a truly epic fantasy should be.
And I say that as someone who has grown to hate epic fantasies.
Confused? Then understand this: In recent decades the term epic fantasy has become cemented to rather non-epic ideas of what constitutes fantasy, namely endless variations on J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Epic fantasy has come to mean European-style castles and magic and dragons and quests, usually populated by European-styled people living European-styled lives with European-styled beliefs.
There's nothing intrinsically wrong with fantasies like these, and obviously many people love them. But I for one am sick of them.
I've always believed the term epic fantasy meant more than Tolkien and endless knockoffs of his work. To me, fantasies are truly epic when they take you to worlds you never previously imagined and introduce you to people and events and magic you couldn't have dreamed up yourself.
I don't want my epic fantasies to be more of the same old. And that's one reason I absolutely fell in love with Hurley's The Mirror Empire.
Hurley's novel is set on a world I can barely attempt to describe, where shifting satellites power magical abilities and open doors to other dimensions. Now this world is approaching a critical alignment of these satellites, an alignment which allows people from other worlds to invade every two thousand years.
The setting is actually far more complicated than that, but to tell more would reveal some truly epic spoilers. All that matters is that Hurley has invested her time in creating a powerful world and you can't help but believe in this setting. Add in a story dealing with powerful themes like identity and slavery and genocide, and characters you'll love even when they reveal themselves as having oh-so-human failings, and the result is a great novel which will pull you through a literary wringer and leave you wishing immediately for the next book in the series.
The Mirror Empire is the best fantasy I've read this year and one of the best of recent years. This is also an epic fantasy for people who have grown to hate what passes for epic fantasies in today's marketplace.
The Mirror Empire is highly recommended and will be on my award shortlists. I suggest people check it out.