My first read and review was here: Quick reviews to catch up. The Mirror Empire: Worldbreaker Saga 1 by is an ambitious book grounded in multiple worlds shoved into violent collision.
We have a lot of appealing characters from several empires and social strata. Most of the characters with face time (POV chapters) are from the primary world; all are grounded in the primary world’s struggle. A time of change is upon us; the wandering satellite Oma is powering channelers of its own; the other three satellite’s devotees are mixed in their ability to handle Omajistas–and almost all expect another 20 to 100 years before they’ll have to deal with it.
By “change”, I mean that terrible destruction is predicted–last time, thousands of years ago, much of a continent was sunk into the sea and strange life poured over the land, permanently changing things. Like a lot of carnivorous plants and trees are everywhere now, requiring special protections for settlements.
There are fiveish major POV characters. We start with Lilia, who is immediately appealing–abandoned by her mother, she’s left to become a drudge at a monastery. While she had a lot of missteps, her story felt like a good coming of age tale. She’d make a good YA protagonist, though the world she’s trapped in is more relentlessly oppressive than most.
Taigan comes next. A bit of a helper, a bit villainous–the chapters of Taigan make you wonder if you’re supposed to root against them. Lots of interesting details come out, slowly–but you’re distracted by the interactions with Lilia most of the time and only come to understand what makes ’em tick later.
Ahkio’s story is political, revealing the complexities of Dhai as understood by adults. He’s deeply enmeshed with steering the country, and hard times won’t wait…
Roh’s story feels like an outgrowth of Lilia’s, since he starts at the temple with her, but soon he’s off to foreign lands–very foreign to him. He’s kept in the dark, mostly, which makes him a good viewpoint character for learning about the world beyond the temples and Dhai from a Dhai’s point of view.
Zezili flips us over the border to Dhai’s enemies, as they see themselves. She’s a successful and powerful general; from her eyes we see Dorinah. It’s a compelling, dark, realistic feeling matriarchy.
The overall plot is confusing, since none of the five are very clued in. But each figures out more and more about what’s really going on as the book progresses. No one has it easy; Lilia struggles across multiple worlds, striving and trying–she’s almost a perfect incarnation of perseverance. Her price–like everyone’s–is steep.
The book came much easier on reread. I was ready for confusing names and got to enjoy Taigan’s joke on the world from the start this time. The world is truly alien… which is a great reason to read this book. It’s not five heroes questing together against the dawn; it’s five messy, painful stories in a tough time.