The Otissito Review

Category: Epic Fantasy

Total 6 Posts

Book Review: “The Mirror Empire” by Kameron Hurley

The Mirror EmpireThe Mirror Empire was an incredibly difficult book for me to get through. It had nothing to do with the subject matter and nothing to do with the quality of the story, as both are wonderfully fantastic, but everything to do with my having not read a true epic fantasy book in a very, very long time prior to picking it up. The last six months of 2014 were filled with books that moved quickly, had lightweight world building, and in general were not very hard to comprehend or digest. To go from that straight into Kameron Hurley’s fantastic, complicated, intense, and frankly, rather weird storytelling was a challenge, a big challenge, but one I would not give back for anything.

For a decent amount of time went by where I constantly admired the cover art for The Mirror Empire, but was unsure if I should pick it up to read. It took a majority of the authors on my Twitter feed raving about the book over and over again for me to bite the bullet and take the plunge. Just as I realized if all the authors I loved were going to love this book I should probably read it as well, it happened to show up on sale for my Kindle, so I had the bonus of trying it without paying full price.

If I had known how good The Mirror Empire was going to be, I would have waited until after the sale and paid full price as a show of support to the author. As it was, I bought one of her other books to make up for it.

The plot of The Mirror Empire revolves around two parallel universes colliding with each other as a satellite known as the dark star, among other names, rises into the sky giving greater power to certain magic users and taking away power from others. There are invading armies, warring kingdoms, feuding families, mysterious powers, killer plants, and so many other strange things in this book. One of the most interesting things about The Mirror Empire is the gender and sexuality orientations. Beyond the traditional male and female, half a dozen other options exist, all of which mix together into some interesting and dynamic family situations. I thought these new ideas on gender and sexuality were well thought-out and added a very rich layer to the story being told.

In this book your ideas of what is acceptable and what’s not are going to be challenged. The gender-bending moments, as well as the way people interact with each other really push the boundaries that most people are going to be comfortable with having. It took me a little while to settle into the book as a result, but I think by the time I finished I was glad I kept going and had the opportunity to see Kameron Hurley do what she is doing with the book. I think that the genre is better off for what she’s attempting with this trilogy.


The Mirror Empire is 544 pages long, and was published August 26, 2014 by Angry Robot. Further commentary on the book can be found at Goodreads.

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Book Review: “The Autumn Republic” by Brian McClellan

The Autumn RepublicOne of the smartest decisions I’ve made regarding reading in the past few years was to sit down and read Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan. I had heard wonderful things about the book and seen several rather high-profile authors commenting on how much they had enjoyed reading it. Very quickly I realized that Brian McClellan was orchestrating a tale I’d always wanted to read, but had no idea it was something I wanted. That sort of thing doesn’t happen often for me and I remember reading Promise of Blood in roughly a day after starting it in the morning.

I finished Promise of Blood just a few weeks before The Crimson Campaign hit bookstores, so I got lucky, but then I had to wait far, far too long for The Autumn Republic to arrive. During the interim I read all of Brian McClellan’s short fiction for the Powder Mage universe to help with the wait and when The Autumn Republic downloaded to my Kindle I was ready and willing to roll back into its world immediately.

The conclusion of this trilogy that has seen Field Marshal Tamas, his son Taniel, his adoptive daughter Vlora, and many others, including the always delightful Olem, was one of the strongest endings to a trilogy I’ve read. McClellan does a magnificent job expanding his characters from book to book in ways that seem realistic, relatable, and as having some sort of consequence for the story at hand. I felt like in The Autumn Republic I was seeing the characters grow into the people they would be for the remainder of their lives instead of seeing them perform actions just to make the story work. There were heartbreaking moments for me with Taniel and Vlora, desperation as I read wondering what was going to become of Olem. Field Marshal Tamas ended up becoming one of the most impressive characters I’ve ever read, hands down.’

The Autumn Republic takes great care in trying to believable show what would happen if an oppressive monarchy were to be overthrown in favor of a democratic republic. There are growing pains involved with that kind of thing and while they were hinted at in Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign, those growing pains became much more urgent with this final book. Field Marshal Tamas worked hard to give the people of Adran the government they deserved, but he did not plan some of the backstabbing and chicanery that came about as a result of his coup. I was especially impressed with the work McClellan does in twisting the plot around as Tamas is trying to get back to Adopest and finish what he started. There were a few detours that I was not expecting and the story was better because of them. Some other authors would have taken the more straightforward path, but McClellan took some chances that paid great dividends.

Throughout The Autumn Republic I felt the relationship between Taniel and Ka-poel stole the show. It’s been fascinating to see the two of them interact over the entire trilogy, but in this book especially it seemed like they really became a power duo. My only complaint is that it was never revealed what exactly makes Ka-poel so special compared to the other magic users in the books. Maybe that will be explored in future novel or short fiction set within the same universe; I certainly hope that’s the case.

Nila is another character that sees significant growth over the course of the book. I was rather skeptical of her in The Crimson Campaign because I wasn’t sure what the author was trying to do with her on the whole. However, her interactions with Bo in this book really brought her to the forefront and provided a good contrast to the more brute force, gritty approaches of Tamas, Olem, and Taniel when it comes to sorting things out. She’s scared of what she’s becoming, but at the same time fascinated by the possibilities it could mean for her future. I especially enjoyed the small moment between Nila and Ka-poel as if Ka-poel knows something about Nila that Nila doesn’t. The two of them clearly have some sort of connection or similarities that were not fully explored yet.

There isn’t much I can say directly about the plot events of The Autumn Republic without spoiling too many great moments for those who’ve yet to read the book. What I can say though, is that the ultimate fate of all the main characters seemed like it fit perfectly. Field Marshal Tamas, Taniel, Ka-poel, Olem, Nila, Bo, Vlora, and even the wonderful Inspector Adamat all have fates that made me feel very satisfied as a reader. I’m not sure if this is the last time we will see these characters in work by Brian McClellan, but if it is, I feel very much like it’s exactly the way we as readers should see them when the final page is turned. Everything wrapped up exactly how it should be in the end.

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Book Review: "The Breaking World: Dawn of Swords" by David Dalglish and Robert J. Duperre

Dawn of SwordsTitle: The Breaking World: Dawn of Swords
Author: David Dalglish and Robert J. Duperre
Publisher: 47 North
Publication Date: January 14, 2014
Length: 609 pages

Obtained: I bought my copy from Amazon.

The Plot: Dezrel is a new world, a young world. The gods Karak and Ashhur have come to this world to try again at creating humanity after failing before. With this new attempt at humanity the brother gods have designated some known as the First Families to guide the fledgling race as it discovers the path it should take. The leading members of these families will never age and never die as long as they remain faithful to their respective deities, If they aren’t, the aging process begins. Sometimes, they haven’t exactly remained faithful, but they go to great lengths to try to hide it from others.

The children of Karak are at odds with those they have thrown out of their order and have threatened them with destruction if they don’t forsake their ways. The children of Ashhur are content to live their lives full of innocence, ignoring the happenings in other parts of the land. Ashhur has protected them, protected their lives so they can be happy.

Jacob Eveningstar, the very first man created by the god brothers is determined to find a solution to the problem as he knows that if the children of Karak go through with their plan the entire world, both the followers of Karak and the followers of Ashhur will suffer.

The Commentary: There is an awful lot going on in this book, and if you are a fan of the Half-Orc universe, you will find Dawn of Swords to be a wonderful eye-opening look at the early days of Dezrel that are referenced so often in the other books. There is a lot of great information in Dawn of Swords that adds so much extra depth to the books that take place after it in the Half-Orcs chronology. For no other reason than that I found Dawn of Swords to be a great read. David Dalglish has previously created such a vibrant world with his books and now Robert J. Duperre has joined Dalglish to take that world to the next level.

Seeing Karak and Ashhur in person for the first time was really exciting. I had pictured in my mind how the two of them would be from the other books, but I was only partly right with my mental picture. I had their general characteristics rather spot on, but the more subtle things I was pleasantly surprised with.

Having the chance to learn about the First Families and the life of Jacob Eveningstar was also a very exciting thing for me. They are referenced plenty of times in other books but they were always a mysterious entity most of the time. There is a lot going on with the First Families and I think there is a lot more to learn in the books that follow Dawn of Swords. I believe it is intended to be the first of a trilogy, but don’t quote me on that.

The world building in Dawn of Swords is spectacular. Dalglish and Duperre have a lot of room to work with Dezrel and because this book is essentially the origin story for all the other ones they get to do a lot of filling in the blank along with bringing new information to the forefront. All of it was done with fine dexterity, and while the book may have been just a tad too long for the story it was telling, the pictures being painted were fantastic.

Needs More: Action. Dawn of Swords has its fair share of action scenes, but at over 600 pages in length I went in thinking there would be more action of the epic variety. This isn’t a knock on the book by any means, it’s just that as a personal preference, given the amount of action I’ve seen in the other books of this universe, it was a little tame. Perhaps it comes as part of this book being such a big world building endeavor.

Needs Less: Exposition. I’m all about length epic fantasy books, but this on was just a hair too long for the content it was giving me. Perhaps 75 pages less would have done the trick for me. There were a handful of scenes that hung on just a little bit too long.

Worth It? Yes, I think so. Granted, this is not the book to start with if you are looking to read something from this universe for the first time because it deals with a lot of story that won’t make as much sense as if you’ve read some of the other books first. However, if you are a fan of David Dalglish’s previous books, this new prequel to those by Dalglish and Duperre will likely  be something you’ll enjoy.

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Looking Back at March 2014

A fourth of the year has passed us by which means if I’m to stay on track with my reading goal I need to be at 25 books finished. It was close this month sneaking in a ninth book to stay on track, but I managed it. This month featured a new author or two, making progress on a series, and reading my favorite author’s newest book.

The books I read in March 2014:

Out of that list my favorites were Words of Radiance and Half Way Home. I was waiting nearly four years for the Brandon Sanderson book and it was fantastic. Half Way Home was a bit of a surprise. I was expecting it to be good because I like Hugh Howey as an author, but it ended up being my favorite book of his I’ve read to date. I was also very impressed by Michael J. Sullivan’s Hollow World, which he sent me an advance copy of in return for a review. I had a hard time putting it down after I got started.

The only book from March that really didn’t do much for me was Wolfheart by Richard A. Knaak. I just didn’t connect with it very well, but that’s okay, if I only have one book out of every eight or nine that I don’t connect with perfectly I think I’m doing pretty well. I also made it through books four and five of the Seafort Saga, which should allow me to finish up the series in April with little trouble.

Speaking of April, I’m looking to get the Seafort Saga finished by reading the last two books. I’m also going to read the two newest David Dalglish books I’ve been waiting for and I’m also going to drive through a few more random novels on my Kindle in my continuing quest to clean it out entirely.

Book Review: "The Stormlight Archive: Words of Radiance" by Brandon Sanderson ***SPOILERS***

Words of RadianceRight off the bat I’m just going to admit this review is full of spoilers. I try to write my reviews without spoiling things as much as possible, but this is one of those books where if I’m going to talk about it, I want to talk about all of it, and I want to talk about specifics. So, if you do not want to know specific details about major events in Words of Radiance I suggest you stop reading this book review right now and bookmark it for after you’ve finished the book. You have been warned. I feel no guilt if you keep reading.

I’ve waited so long to read this book, just over three years if I remember my dates correctly, and it was worth every single excruciating moment. Words of Radiance is about 100 pages longer than The Way of Kings, which meant more juicy action for me to sink my teeth into during my epic 48 hour reading session. My brain was so frazzled after finishing the book that I took about three days off from reading anything when I was done. The thing has so much packed into it that my thoughts were spinning.

Words of Radiance features Shallan, Kaladin, and Adolin as the primary viewpoint characters, but it does have a few chapters from Dalinar’s point of view thrown in for good measure when necessary. There are also interludes with Szeth once again, along with a few other characters I think we’ll see much more of in future installments. I was most interested in the Parshendi interludes, but they did not have as much meat in them as I was hoping after the first one. They did provide some very useful information about the nature of the Parshendi though, and for that I’m very grateful.

A large majority of the book, excluding the interludes for obvious reason, takes place on the Shattered Plains, which is not what I was expecting. For whatever reason I thought going in that Shallan was going to spend a lot more time getting to where the army camps were than she did, but it was a pleasant surprise that she got to interact with characters like Adolin and Kaladin to a greater extent because of it.

The plot revolves around Dalinar’s quest to reform the Knights Radiant and his decision that the armies are going to take the fight to the Parshendi once and for all. No more back and forth across the Shattered Plains, it’s time to end this war. Of course, not everything goes according to plan in that regard, but it’s still a big shift in course compared to the status quo. Kaladin spends most of the book training his new battalion of soldiers/guards made up of former bridgemen, which presents him many challenges. Shallan tries to uncover as many secrets about Shadesmar, the spren, and the Parshendi as she can manage, and Adolin focuses on trying to win back as many Shardblades and pieces of Shardplate as he can for his father’s endeavors.

Brandon Sanderson is a notorious third-act author who tends to leave the meat of his action and excitement to the final third of the book. With this book, he took it to an even greater extreme and waited until the last 150 pages or so for the big reveals.

The showdown I wanted between Amaram and Kaladin never came to fruition, but an epic throwdown takes place between Kaladin and Szeth near the end. Kaladin has reached his full potential as a Windrunner just like Szeth, except for the fact that Kaladin is a much more powerful one as far as I can see. Kaladin defeats Szeth after a long battle and Szeth is sent to lick his wounds.

As it turns out, Dalinar is also a Radiant, something called a Bondsmith. Shallan is a Radiant as well, of the Lightweaver order. Even Szeth is revealed to be a member of one of the Radiant’s orders, the Skybreakers. The return of the Knights Radiant is in full swing by the final pages of Words of Radiance, and I’m hoping it picks up right where it left off in the opening pages of the forthcoming third book. There were even hints that the members of Bridge Four might be in some fashion related to the Radiants as some type of squires, but I’m not entirely certain on that point.

Oh yeah, and Vasher shows up. Yes, the same Vasher from Warbreaker. Which then makes you start to think…

Wait for it…

Szeth is defeated by Kaladin as I mentioned previously and then something interesting happens where he receives a visit by one of the ten Heralds. At the end of Chapter 88 you read the following, which I’m just going to quote so that I don’t mess it up:

“This is not a problem,” Nin said, looking back. “I have brought a Shardblade for you. One that is a perfect match for your task and temperament.” He tossed his large sword to the ground. It skidded on stone and came to a rest before Szeth.

He had not seen a sword with a metal sheath before. And who sheathed a Shardblade? And the Blade itself . . . was it black? An inch or so of it had emerged from the sheath as it slid on the rocks.

Szeth swore he could see a small trail of black smoke coming off the metal. Like Stormlight, only dark.

Hello, a cheerful voice said in his mind. Would you like to destroy some evil today?

THAT’S RIGHT! NIGHTBLOOD SHOWS UP!

I cannot even begin to explain how much that blew my mind. I was sitting on the couch next to my wife as I read those paragraphs to end that chapter and I started dancing around the room. My heart rate increased, I got chills, I was freaking out. Some of the more intense Brandon Sanderson fans might have seen that reveal coming, but I definitely didn’t, and it got me all sorts of worked up with excitement. Seriously. I had to put the book down for a few minutes because I could not focus on reading for a bit.

Soon enough I managed to finish the book, but I was completely amped the entire time. Words of Radiance was filled with everything I wanted and more. Sure, it was long, and sure, it probably doesn’t need to be that long, but it is what it is. If you are a fan of Brandon Sanderson you are likely going to love this book. If you aren’t a fan of his writing, that’s okay, it’s not for everyone, but I’m sure glad I read his books.

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