"The body's here." Kirana Javia, Empress of Dhai, Divine Kai of the Tai Mora, gazed across a field of corpses.
–Kameron Hurley - The Empire Ascendent - c2015
I’m stealing the description from netgalley because I hate recapping follow up books in a series :
Loyalties are tested when worlds collide…
Every two thousand years, the dark star Oma appears in the sky, bringing with it a tide of death and destruction. And those who survive must contend with friends and enemies newly imbued with violent powers. The kingdom of Saiduan already lies in ruin, decimated by invaders from another world who share the faces of those they seek to destroy.
Now the nation of Dhai is under siege by the same force. Their only hope for survival lies in the hands of an illegitimate ruler and a scullery maid with a powerful – but unpredictable – magic. As the foreign Empire spreads across the world like a disease, one of their former allies takes up her Empress’s sword again to unseat them, and two enslaved scholars begin a treacherous journey home with a long-lost secret that they hope is the key to the Empire’s undoing.
But when the enemy shares your own face, who can be trusted?
In this devastating sequel to The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley transports us back to a land of blood mages and sentient plants, dark magic, and warfare on a scale that spans worlds.
Personally, that description would be enough to make me pick up this book, but in case you want more, I’ll tell you. Read this book. Well, start with book one The Mirror Empire and then once you’ve been sucked into this ‘verse go read this one.
Just like with the first book it took me a couple of chapters to really get into this book. I should have really reread the first book, I’m terrible with names and remembering who is who, and there are plenty of characters to remember in this series. Once I’d gotten them somewhat straight in my head I was totally immersed in this story.
Usually I like a character to cheer for. I don’t think I could cheer for anybody in this book. Pretty much everyone is at the end of their tether and they are all doing anything and everything they can think of to survive. To help their people survive. Sometimes that involves slaughtering worlds. Not really characters you’d want to ask around for tea.
It is a book that expects you to use your brain, this is far from brainless entertainment, so if you are looking for fluff look elsewhere. It also surprised me by showing me how much I expect gender to be pointed out to me. One character refers to themselves using non-gender specific descriptors, ze and hir, and while I was familiar with those words, and have read them in non-fiction, to read whole chapters was a different experience. I kept looking for a he or she, which, obviously was not forthcoming.
It is a fascinating book, because, as I already said, the characters do terrible things, almost no body is without blood on their hands. And that is a central theme of this book, people being forced into actions and reactions, situations creating “monsters” and what exactly people are willing to do to survive.
In a tweet Hurley described this book as her “Empire Strikes Back”, so yeah, be prepared for the grim and the dark!