THE BROKEN HEAVENS by Kameron Hurley
Angry Robot, p/b, £12.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
Some trilogies or series can be joined at any point in the cycle, and they are understandable to any new reader, others should not be tackled except at the start of the sequence. Kameron Hurley’s Worldbreaker Saga of which The Broken Heavens is volume three, is one of the latter. The problem is that it’s a very complex scenario, and it takes a lot of concentration to untangle it. There is some help form the character list at the end of the book, but as this runs to thirty pages, which gives an idea of the problems of following the plot.
The background of this trilogy has been carefully constructed but needed to be seen in its entirety to understand it completely. Beginning two-thirds of the way through does not help.
The action is a race against time with different factions having differing objectives. The Tai Mora, led by Kirana Javia, have fled Raisa through a gate between worlds to one that mirrors theirs exactly even down to the people. As their world crumbles, they have nowhere else to go. The problem is that they cannot cross if their counterpart is still alive. This is one of the motivations for Kirana’s attempts to exterminate the Dhai. Her wife and daughter are amongst those who cannot cross and are trapped in a crumbling pocket universe. Kirana is a ruthless killer but also has a fierce loyalty to those she cares about.
Orbiting this planet are four satellites, which, when in the sky, convey magical powers to various classes of sorcerers. One of these, Oma, only rises every thousand years. Then, the combined powers of the satellites (not to be confused with moons) can be used as Worldbreakers. Scattered across the region of Dhai are four temples dedicated to the powers of the satellites. Although they are surrounded by stone structures, the heart of them appears to be organic. Over time, the sea has eroded the coast dumping the Temple of Sina in the sea. Knowing the importance of these temples, Kirana has it raised but is unable to gain access to it.
The remnants of the Dhai are hiding out in the woodlands, among them the mirrors of Kirana’s wife and daughter. The leader of the rebels is Lilia who is a thorn in the side of the Tai Mora forces leading them in a kind of guerrilla warfare. She understands that they have to gain access to the Temples before Karina can tear her way in, and while Oma is still in the sky.
Presumably, the majority of the myriad characters have appeared in the other two volumes (The Mirror Empire and Empire Ascendant), and readers familiar with the series will have a better understanding as to where they fit into the whole structure. Jumping into the saga at volume three makes it difficult to know which characters we are meant to be sympathetic towards. Most of them have substance and flaws, none are totally sympathetic, their motives sometimes compassionate, at other times cruel. Hurley is a complex writer, and this book is best savoured after having read the first two in the series.