Because all of life is stories.
Sweet fucking Hell.
What a book.
I imagine you’d like more of a review than that. Fine.
Empire Ascendant is the second book in Kameron Hurley’s Worldbreaker Saga. It continues the story of the rise of the dark star Oma, and the ruination of the worlds that it shines its sinister red light upon. In our second chapter, the Tai Mora invasion into Dhai begins in earnest, and the lines between who is good and who is evil blur even further than they already were in the previous installment. And Hurley, as per usual I’m coming to realize, has no problems with royally screwing with her characters in order to stir up drama or a more compelling story. It’s like having to take medicine as a child. We know it hurts and it sucks and we’d rather everything tasted like sugar, but it makes us better in the end. Hurley knows when to snap tendons and strings to pull on emotion.
One of the things I loved about The Mirror Empire was Hurley’s willingness to make us sing for our supper. We’re thrown in to a complex world with many distinct nations, customs, magics, locales, and histories and then set to tumble dry. It takes awhile to sort what’s going on and get your bearings correctly, especially when we’re dealing with a multiverse in a fantasy world. That kind of book is more than likely to scare away or annoy a fair share of readers, and I won’t say I wasn’t confused for awhile, but I’m doubly glad that I stuck around for the ride. Jumping back into Hurley’s world a second time now I already have the requisite knowledge and have jumped through most of the hoops. I know the systems and the histories and the culture all much better than before. It’s like slipping into an old leather glove. Covered in blood. And tears. Because I already know what’s going on and Hurley has already spent so much time explaining the gears on this one are shifted higher and the surprises and things that go boom come at a much faster and more satisfying pace. I’ve already been told it’s a multiverse, so it comes as no shock that four or five other worlds are falling into the picture. Bug people? Ghosts? Giant temples that grow out of the ground and eat people? I’m all in. I’ve been set up not to have my suspension of disbelief questioned. Little did I know Hurley spent an entire book and a half weaving threads made out of knives around me, and she’s picked the perfect few moments to snap the net tight around me.
She’s also introduced enough new things that I have no idea what exactly will come in the next installment of this series. With more and more worlds crowding in the world of Zezili and Taigan and company is getting smaller and smaller, as Oma begins to make drastic changes to the rules we’ve learned for this world. Soon the entire world will be thrown upside down and against itself. Hurley has written a compelling second book in her series that adds intriguing and, as always, bloody new elements. The wait for book the second was well worth it, and the wait for book the third is going to be agonizing.
Keep a good strong drink on hand for this one.