Cover Image: The Broken Heavens

The Broken Heavens

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Member Reviews

I love reading Kameron Hurley’s books! They each show the amazing creativity she has as a writer. I was introduced to Hurley’s writing when i was given a copy of the first book of the God’s War trilogy - I loved it and then proceeded to consume each book she has ever written. Her style of writing, the various characters in each story, the detailed world-building that she painstakingly creates in her series is unique and always exciting. I can think of no one to compare. She is a stand alone author in the genre. When i began the next book series,”Worldbreaker”, I was once again pulled back into her works. I completed them always wanting more. Book one and two were finished and when I learned i had to wait for the release of the third installment, I was not happy. It was frustrating having to wait for the release date. Of course, anyone who is a fan of scifi & fantasy know that waiting for the next book in a series is part of the deal when you involve yourself in one of these epics. So wait I did. In time, I finally had it in my hands. Once I opened the “The Broken Heavens”, third book in the Workdbreaker saga, I stopped everything. It contained everything i look for in a successfully written story- emotional ties with different characters, sharing their feelings on everything up to that point. I experienced a clear and detailed image of each scene Hurley described, nothing was left to chance. Every part of the story brought together everything from book one. I was not disappointed. So i highly recommend this book. It will be one of your favorites. I am ready for whatever comes next from Hurley..
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Thus was the final book of my favorite fantasy series. The risks and imagination of the Worldbreaker Saga should be a bare minimum and it is unfortunate that the books are outliers. This third book gives a vast cast of characters each time to griw and shine. And, amid the horror and chaos, Hurley alliws room for hope. The series is a triumph of representation and this a worthy ending.
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A conclusion I spent a long time wondering about. 

As a note, I would recommend reading the books together. Taking a long break and reading many books in between made it much more difficult to put the pieces of what was happening back together.

I had a lot of feelings about this book, the opening was a little slow (especially since I had forgotten some of the characters and backstory) but it picked up quickly. The pacing was very well done. 

I ended the book/series with quite a bit to process and think about. Still not sure how I feel about the ending, or what precisely happened. Overall, an enjoyable read and solid conclusion.
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It was an excellent read of a great story.
There's a lot of things I loved: the amazing world building, the great cast of characters, the gripping plot that kept me hooked till the end.
Can't wait to read other books by this author.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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My second read of this year.

The Broken Heavens is the third and concluding book in Kameron Hurley's Worldbreaker Saga. It's been quite a long time coming, as the first book in the series, The Mirror Empire, was published back in August 2014. The sequel, Empire Ascendant, was published in October 2015, and the The Broken Heavens was initially due to be published in Autumn 2017.

If you follow Kameron on social media she detailed her struggle with writing The Broken Heavens, as well as juggling other book deadlines and a full time job. She delivered a draft of Broken Heavens to her agent, and then effectively rewrote the book again from scratch, while writing other books, including awesome The Light Brigade, which came out in 2019.

I received an ARC of The Broken Heavens from Netgalley (via the publisher Angry Robot), in exchange for an honest review.

Cover image: The Broken Heavens 
by Kameron Hurley
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐4 stars (out of 5)

* Spoiler Warning*

When I read the Mirror Empire I was really impressed by the intricate world-building, in which characters travel across multiple worlds, only if their counterparts on those worlds have already died. I initially found it a bit confusing, but when I started to think of it more in terms of a multiverse, where many aspects of each multi-verse are similar but not the same, my brain managed to keep track of the details much better. Mirror Empire begins the stories of a lot of characters struggling to gain or to hold on to power, including: Kirana, Zezili, Maralah, Lilia, Roh, and Anavha amidst an invasion from another world. 

Where The Mirror Empire is about hopeful characters having their lives broken by the harsh reality of invasion, the story at the heart of the The Broken Heavens is broken characters daring to hope one more time. Lilia and Roh, who were children at the beginning of the Saga, are now scarred and worn down by the world, the power they once wielded now closed to them. 

Even though the characters are all scattered at the beginning of The Broken Heavens, they are slowly drawn together by the power of The People's Temple, a fifth temple that, once Para is ascendant again, along with the other stars will enable a Worldbreaker to access the power of all the stars. The aim of the various factions trying to get to The People's Temple varies from wanting close the seams between the worlds, stopping any more invaders and killing all the invaders and sending them back to their dead worlds. 

I did really enjoy how Hurley showed that everyone in this world had suffered in one way or another, and that while some had done more bad things than others (Kirana), there really wasn't any faction who could be considered innocent (not even the so-called pacifist Dhai). I also liked how even the supposedly powerful jistas powers varied depending on whether their star was ascendant, and whether they'd overexerted themselves in previous battles. It meant that even though I was rooting for Lilia, I was genuinely unsure about whether she was doing the right thing, or whether she had the power to complete her quest.

As always, the sentient botanical menaces that are poised to maim and kill whenever any character dares let their card down for one moment, are still terrifying. I couldn't quite decide whether the bone trees or tumbleterrors were the most terrifying, but I'm glad neither are real.  

While it did feel slightly convenient that all our key characters survived the trilogy to the final showdown at the People's Temple, I did enjoy following all of their stories, particularly Roh, Lilia and Anavha. The ending was what I had expected, but was still tense and ultimately satisfying. It was a fitting end to an innovative and exciting fantasy series.
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I have one very important thing to tell you about this book, and this series as a whole: Don't be afraid to use the glossary of terms in the back. Look things and characters up if you don't quite remember them. It will be worth it. I promise.
     Hurley has densely packed this book, from top to bottom, with so many little worldbuilding details that I'd be shocked if you could hold it all in your head. But that's why we're reading Hurley, right? RIGHT.
   This is a fitting conclusion to the Worldbreaker saga. By about a quarter into this book, I was anxious. Things felt helpless, and overwhelming. That level of dread and tension continued til almost the last page. Hurley, as usual, pulls no punches. I won't say that she likes to make her characters suffer, but I will say that she doesn't hesitate to kick them while they're down. And boy, are they all down in this book. 
   Hurley manages to tie all the various threads of multiple characters from multiple worlds all together, in a narrative that is relentlessly paced and doesn't give you time to catch your breath. I almost wish there was a bit more at the end, there were so many characters and I wanted more reassurance that the ones left standing would be okay. But, after all, this is Kameron Hurley and that's not the way her worlds work. And her stories are always better for it.

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Honest review, etc.
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Great read. Great book. I would love to read other books by this author. The description was great and the characters seemed real.
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If I had to describe The Broken Heavens in a single word, ‘deceptive’ would be it. This is a book that’s deceptive in just about every way, and I can’t think of a better way to end the epic intensity of The Worldbreaker Saga.

As the book opens, we’re presented with what feels like a smaller, more intimate tale, one that is focused on a few key players and a pair of key conflicts – Lilia and the Dhai versus Kirana and the Tai Mora – but (of course) it’s not that simple. Lilia is just as much in conflict with the Dhai, challenging an entire philosophy of pacifism with her desire for revenge, and her followers are standing in the way of the nation’s retreat. Then there’s the matter of Lilia’s own deceit, hiding the fact that she burned herself out.

Layered on top of all that is the reminder that, when you’re dealing with multiple worlds, with parallel people crossing over between mirror universes, deception is everywhere. Compounding that confusion is the surprise return of characters thought dead, cloaked in questions of whether they really are the characters we think, or just mirror counterparts from another world. Adding to that doubt is a kind of self-deception, with one of those most surprising characters suffering from a sort of short-term amnesia, leaving us to wonder if they even know whether they’re the real deal.

“There’s always another monster, another and another, behind them. You kill them, you become them, you lose everything you ever cared for.”

And self-deception is not just limited to amnesiacs. There are so many characters here lumbering under their own sense of self-deception, fooling themselves as to what their true motives and goals might be. They have become so adept at spinning lies, at presenting the right illusion to those around them, that when it comes time to choose sides, to decide upon a course of action, they’re not even sure what they want. Of course, even the illusion of choice is a deception, as Roh reminds us:

“There are more than two choices. It’s not all good or evil, this or that. We have the power to find other choices . . . I thought I had two choices, always, but there were more than that, always.”

Perhaps the book’s biggest deception, however, is allowing us to believe that the conflict could ever be so simple, just one leader versus another, one race against another. There are glimpses of other worlds through, literal drop-in reminders of just how many people are fleeing the destruction of their own worlds, but the first real clue that there may be a third power to contend with almost sneaks by. It isn’t fully appreciated until after the fact . . . and by then it’s far too late.

In terms of characters, I really like how Kameron Hurley brought Lilia to a natural conclusion, allowing her growth, self-revelation, and moments of both triumph and tragedy. We see her full potential here, and she rises to the occasion. Kirana becomes even more well-rounded in this final chapter and, despite all that horrors for which she’s responsible, it becomes increasingly harder to simply see her as a villain. Taigan was always a favorite, and I really like their arc here, free from the magical compulsions of the first two books, and what Hurley does with their immortality is immensely satisfying. Roh gets back into the action, becoming a voice of reason and a guiding influence, if not quite the hero we might have expected, and Anavha becomes a character in his own right, defined by neither Zezili nor Natanial, and yet still very much cringing in their shadows.

“Owned. I know it’s wrong. I know you and Natanial don’t like it, but I miss it. I miss other people telling me what to do. I hate having choices…”

While I truly wondered how, or even if, the saga could end – the cyclical nature of sagas like The Dark Tower kept lurking in my thoughts – I think that is where The Broken Heavens shines brightest. It’s not just the characters and the conflicts that come to a head here, but the entire mythology of the worlds, the gates, and the temples. Given all the build-up to the temples, the satellites, and the breaking of worlds, there’s a lot to deliver here, and Hurley delivers on all of it. More importantly, she looks beyond the end, giving us a thoughtful meditation on all that’s happened and what it means going forward. Outstanding in every respect.
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A brutal but ultimately unsatisfying conclusion to the Mirror Empire trilogy. I've always found this series a little hard to follow, what with the time travel, portals, and multiple versions of the same character, and this instalment continued the trend. There were some really great set pieces and ideas here, but I felt that it was perhaps a chapter or two too long, and the fake-out with the climax was a bit frustrating. 

Overall, it manages to stick the landing- just about- but remains rather frustrating.
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With more than four years since the second book, and no time to re-read, I remained confused throughout this book. Those more partial to epic fantasy will probably like it more than I did, but I can't recommend it at this time. Hurley is an ambitious writer, and since I prefer science fiction, I should check out The Light Brigade or The Stars are Legion.
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I thought Kameron Hurley wrapped this trilogy up nicely. While the first books often felt jumbled this final book felt familiar. That could also be because I now knew all of the characters.
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If you haven't read the first two books in this series, let me sell you on them: Hurley has created a world in full of different cultures which break gender binaries, heterosexual norms, patriarchal social systems, and embrace complex (and frequently polygamous) family units. Oh, and the novel takes place on a hostile world (the plant life actively tries to eat people) orbiting a binary star. There are also four satellites orbiting the star which give certain people magic powers for as long as their satellite is visible in the sky. Every 1000 years, all four satellites can be seen in the sky, which signals a massive cataclysm as alternate realities begin to converge and other versions of this planet in other universes begin to die.  To escape their dying worlds, the inhabitants of those planets, who are mostly doppelgangers of those in the world on which the series is centered (because these are multiple universes), attempt to cross over. They can only do this, however, if they do not have a living double in the world they want to enter. War and genocide ensues.

It is a year after Lilia's disastrous defeat at Kuallina, and the surviving Dhai are either slaves of the Tai Mora or refugees hiding in the woodlands. Lilia and her band of believers keep striking back at the Tai Mora where they can, but the surviving leaders of the free Dhai are losing patience with Lilia's schemes, which they view as futile and dangerous. Meanwhile, the Tai Mora are determined to figure out the secrets of how the temples work--via their captive Luna, who isn't talking---and close the ways between worlds so that no other versions of their selves can cross over from their dying worlds and attempt to conquer this world the way the Tai Mora have done. Of course, the Tai Mora intend to do this after they track down and kill this world's Yisaoh and Tasia, who are among the Dhai refugees, so that their Kirana can bring over her versions of Yisaoh and Tasia to join her.

I'll be honest, it's been several years since I read The Mirror Empire and Empire Ascendant, so I'd forgotten a lot of details about the plot and how all the characters are connected. This novel doesn't do a lot of recap of important details from the previous books, so I was about halfway through before I had picked up or finally remembered all the necessary details to fully grasp what was going on. (Really, I should have just stopped to re-read the previous books, but I wouldn't have had time to do that before this review was due.)  It's a complex plot with a lot of complicated relationships, so a vague recollection of details didn't serve me well here.

It takes a while to reintroduce the characters and get them to where they need to be for the final conflict, but when the endgame arrives, it's excellent and it does a fantastic job grappling with Lilia's burning desire for revenge and the moral and emotional issues raised by the central conflict of the plot, in which people are willing to commit heinous acts in order to save the people they love--even killing other versions of the people they love to save their specific loved ones from certain death.

I highly recommend this series, though you should read (or reread) them all close together because it doesn't really recap what happened before and you need all the information from the previous novels in order to read this. This series is ambitious and challenges all sorts of reader expectations (as is typical of Hurley's work), and Hurley pulls it off well. If you like dark and gritty epic fantasy but wish it were more feminist and anti-colonialist, this is for sure the series for you.
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The Broken Heavens is the third and final book in Kameron Hurley’s Worldbreaker saga. The previous two books were complicated, deeply weird, incisively fierce work. I’m more than happy to report that the conclusion follows in their footsteps.

Worldbreaker is set in a world surrounded by parallel universes. Quite literally. It’s possible to rip holes between parallel realities, leap through, and find yourself in a world where your double made different choices, or their friends did, or their politicians did. To stride from a space where someone is your lover, to one where they’re your worst enemy. But to cross those boundaries, your duplicate needs to be dead.

That drove the central concern of the previous book, as an invading army overwhelmed the pacifist Dhal nation, engaging in genocide in order to save the population of its own ruined world. Now the Dhal are intruders in their own space, occupied by a people who have become a bit more blasé about mass-murder than is good for them. The story explores that occupation, and the conflict that preceded it, with a forensic care, but also with real humanity. There are members of the surviving Dhal who want to rise up and fight. There are members that just want to run, to go somewhere else, to get away from the scene of their catastrophe. Both make excellent arguments, both feel like people trying to do their best by the people behind them. Of course, “their best” is debatable. Nobody here really has clean hands. Those few who appear to are also those with seemingly the least impact on the world. If they’re not willing to get dirty, they’re also not going to get anything done – and will bear the costs of their inaction in any event. The story explores this dichotomy between moral clarity and the personal cost of action – and it does so in an engaging way, using characters that we care about, even as we watch them stand on different sides.

This is a book that really reaches, that is grounding big ideas in its world and in its characters. The world is centred on constantly shifting parallels, but it’s also defined by its magic, itself driven by a complex, shifting pattern of celestial satellites. It’s a complex, detailed, richly imagined universe. But there are enough unanswered questions to make the reader wonder how it all hangs together, and why. The big ideas, the big questions, are the bones of this narrative. Looking at consent, at morality, at what people are willing to do, what costs they’re willing to bear, and why. Examining ideas of love and of understanding, of betrayal for the sake of power, or for the sake of advancement, or for that very love. Of seeing people stand up for what they believe in, and be beaten down over and over, and still fighting. Or acquiescing and working within a system. Or both. This is a text that peels back the human experience, flensing to the heart of the lived shared experience, showing that everyone is as much the same as they are different, that monsters are heroes of their own story – and that you can flip a coin between those seen as monsters and heroes.

So yes, this is a big ideas book.

It’s also an intimate one. While we’re tracking the characters through woods filled wit carnivorous plants, or through disturbingly organic temple-strutures teeming with magic, they’re having heartfelt, genuine discussions. There’s an openness there, a front-faing truth which makes the dialogue feel genuine and heartfelt. That the dialogue includes more than a few sharp words, and the occasional verbal assassination makes no odds – they feel equally real. There’s a sense here of real people, who love and live and hurt and die, and invite the reader to experience that alongside them. Some of these people are, incidentally, not very nice people. But they’re people nonetheless, ones you can empathise – if not sympathise – with. In a world populated by doubles, not everyone is who they seem to be, and truth isn’t always what it appears either. But the people, the people are real. And the way they speak to each other lays aside illusions, and has a sort of emotional honesty which gives the words a serious punch – even if (especially if) the words are a horror, or a lie.

So yes.

A broken, strange world, one that carries a weight of history, and is screaming from the changes imposed upon it by its own paradigm.

Characters who feel real, who you’ll care about, who will make you laugh and cry alongside them, who will make you cheer their failure and fear their success. Who are brave, or not, heroes, or not, terrified, or not, magical, or not. Who are, when it comes down to it, people – with all the behavioural spectrum that entails. But they’re real, and you’ll feel for them, and with them.

There’s the story too I mean, I’m in love with the weird world, and the horrendous, compelling, wonderful characters. But there’s the story too. And it kicks arse. I won’t spoil it. But it has all the explosive, strange, unbelievable magic you’ve been looking for. All the unexpected tragedies. All the moments of soaring triumph and sour defeat (possibly in the same paragraph). It’s complex, with tales interweaving as they build to that climatic conclusion we’ve been waiting for. And that conclusion is painful and glorious and fierce and bloody and wonderful. This one has serious emotional energy, and the kind of compelling prose that leaves you turning just one more page before bed – and then suddenly it’s five in the morning and you’re not entirely sure how that happened, but know you loved getting there. This is a story that makes no apologies, that sears the reader as much as it delights, that wants you to think, and will pull you heart and soul into its story.

This is a damn fine conclusion to a damn fine trilogy, and if you’re here trying to decide if it’s worth finishing the series – yes! If  you’re trying to decide if  the series is worth reading – also yes!
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Before reading The Worldbreaker Saga, I’d already read one trilogy and two standalones by Kameron Hurley, so I knew the series would be great. And yet my expectations were completely blown out of the water. I’m in awe of Hurley’s worldbuilding, of the fascinating magic system she’s created, of her effortless inclusion of diversity, and of her ability to write so many complex characters. 

There are quite a few POVs in this trilogy, and Hurley pulls it off flawlessly. This is a series about parallel worlds, and each POV both adds to the overall picture and makes it impossible to say “those are the good guys and those are the bad guys.” Characters you see in the first book only through another character’s eyes have their own POV in the next book, and suddenly their motivations become clear. Every single character does horrible things, and yet I was still able to sympathize with and understand them. Hurley takes morally gray to the next level, and I love it. 

This series is #ownvoices for queer representation and is set in a queernorm world. There’s bisexual rep, gender-fluid rep, poly rep, multiple recognized genders, and so much more. One of the main characters also has a chronic illness and a physical disability. I appreciate the fact that Hurley doesn’t gloss over the character’s struggles. Her problems are real, and they make it so she often has to work harder, but still she keeps fighting. 

The Broken Heavens, the last book in the trilogy, is my favorite. I couldn’t have asked for more from a series finale. I honestly had no idea what to expect from the ending. I didn’t even know what I should hope for, with all the conflicting POVs. It made for a thrilling read, and I both didn’t want it to end and could hardly put it down. This series is made for binging, and I’m so glad I didn’t have to wait for book three. Do yourself a favorite and give this epic fantasy series a chance!
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I feel like I’ve been waiting for this concluding book forever, though in reality it really hasn’t been that long in book terms and Hurley has produced a lot of excellent sci-fi for me to glut myself on in the meantime. I love this series. The world building is wonderful, drenched with the trademark Hurley levels of gore which manage to be vast but never gratuitous (quite some trick!) The characters and the way they interact is excellent, nuanced and intelligent. The plot is a real zinger. An excellent closing novel. Highly recommend this dark epic fantasy series.
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I think my favourite book so far by Kameron Hurley has been The Light Brigade, this story was fascinating and I was swept along by the interplay by the characters and their development, a very good read
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