The Broken Heavens

Book III in the Worldbreaker Saga

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Pub Date Jan 14 2020 | Archive Date Dec 14 2019

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The bloodsoaked conclusion to Kameron Hurley’s epic fantasy masterpiece – the Worldbreaker Saga – is unleashed.
The Dhai nation has broken apart under the onslaught of the Tai Kao, invaders from a parallel world. With the Dhai in retreat, Kirana, leader of the Tai Kao, establishes a base in the dark star Oma’s temple and instructs her astrologers to discover how they can use the ancient holy place to close the way between worlds. With all the connected worlds ravaged by war and Oma failing, only one world can survive. Who will be sacrificed, and what will the desperate people of these worlds do to protect themselves?

File UnderFantasy [ Parallel Lives | Ruined Mothers | Zodiac War | Ultimate Sacrifice ]
The bloodsoaked conclusion to Kameron Hurley’s epic fantasy masterpiece – the Worldbreaker Saga – is unleashed.
The Dhai nation has broken apart under the onslaught of the Tai Kao, invaders from a...

Advance Praise

“Hurley is one of the most important voices in the field.”

– James SA Corey, author of The Expanse series

“Kameron Hurley’s writing is the most exciting thing I’ve seen on the genre page.”

– Richard K. Morgan, author of Altered Carbon

“Kameron Hurley’s a brave, unflinching, truly original writer with a unique vision – her fiction burns right through your brain and your heart.”

– Jeff VanderMeer, author of Annihilation

“The Mirror Empire is the most original fantasy I’ve read in a long time, set in a world full of new ideas, expanding the horizons of the genre. A complex and intricate book full of elegant ideas and finely-drawn characters.”

– Adrian Tchaikovsky, Arthur C Clarke Award-winning author of Children of Time

“Hurley intelligently tackles issues of culture and gender, while also throwing in plenty of bloodthirsty action and well-rounded characters. This is a fresh, exciting fantasy epic that’s looking to the future and asking important questions.”



– John Scalzi, bestselling author of Old Man’s War

“Discovering Kameron Hurley’s work is like finding a whole new galaxy, and she is the star at its center.”

– Chuck Wendig, NYT bestselling author of Star Wars: Aftermath

“Hurley reuses old tropes to excellent effect, interweaving them with original elements to create a world that will fascinate and delight her established fans and appeal to newcomers. Readers will blaze through this opening instalment and eagerly await the promised sequel.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The Mirror Empire is epic in every sense of the word. Hurley has built a world – no, worlds – in which cosmology and magic, history and religion, politics and prejudice all play crucial roles. Prepare yourself for sentient plants, rifts in the fabric of reality, and remarkable powers that wax and wane with the stars themselves. Forget all about tentative, conventional fantasy; there’s so much great material in here that Hurley needs more than one universe in order to fit it all in.”

– Brian Staveley, author of The Emperor’s Blades

“This is a hugely ambitious work, bloody and violent, with interestingly gender-flipped politics and a host of factions to keep straight, as points of view switch often. Although it is a challenging read, the strong narrative thread in this new series from Hurley (God’s War) pulls readers through the imaginative tangle of multiple worlds and histories colliding.”

Library Journal (starred review)

“With vividly inventive world building and a fast-paced plot, The Mirror Empire opens a smart, brutal, and ambitious epic fantasy series.”

– Kate Elliott, author of the Spiritwalker series

“Astoundingly inventive.”

The Illustrated Page

“The Mirror Empire is a fast-paced and exciting read, and the start of quite possibly one of the greatest political dramas I have ever picked up.”

Coffee on My Keyboard

“Taking epic fantasy down challenging and original paths. Thoughtful and thought-provoking with every twist and turn.”

– Juliet E McKenna, author of the Tales of Einarinn series

“The Mirror Empire is a fresh, vigorous, and gripping entrant into the epic fantasy genre, able to stand toe-to-toe with any of the heavyweight series out there. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough.”

SF Revu

“There’s a powerful yet elegant brutality in The Mirror Empire that serves notice to traditional epic fantasy: move over, make way, an intoxicating new blend of storytelling has arrived. These are pages that will command your attention.”

– Bradley Beaulieu, author of The Lays of Anuskaya trilogy

“The Mirror Empire takes look at epic fantasy patriarchy & gives it a firm kick in the balls… [It] will be the most important book you read this year.”

– Alex Ristea, Ristea’s Reads

“In the two worlds of The Mirror Empire, we get Deadly Plants, Blood Magic, and yes, Brutal Women. The Mirror Empire is both a chance for fantasy fans to get to know Hurley’s writing, and for previous fans of her work to see what she can do in a new vein. And for readers new to her work, this is in many ways the best place to start.”

SF Signal

“For me [The Mirror Empire] did all the things a fantasy should do – holding our own societies up to the light by reflecting off worlds that are very different. Add in a magic system where the users are only powerful some of the time, and semi sentient vegetation that is possibly more of a threat than the magic users, and I happily sank into this book with a satisfied sigh.”

– Francis Knight, author of Fade to Black

“The Mirror Empire is an extraordinary novel. The scale and invention here makes it essential reading but the characters make it remarkable. None of them are heroes and none of them have the comforting sense of having read the book they’re in. They’re all flawed, terrified people doing what they can to survive. Seeing them struggle even as the stakes are raised makes for a reading experience as packed as it is tense. Book two can’t get here fast enough.”

– Alasdair Stuart

“Bold, merciless, and wildly inventive, Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire begins an epic tale of worlds at war that will linger long in readers’ imaginations. If you’re looking for original and challenging fantasy, this is definitely the series for you.”

– Courtney Schafer, author of The Whitefire Crossing

“Hurley is one of the most important voices in the field.”

– James SA Corey, author of The Expanse series

“Kameron Hurley’s writing is the most exciting thing I’ve seen on the genre page.”


Available Editions

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ISBN 9780857665621
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Average rating from 16 members

Featured Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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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 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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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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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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Invaders from a parallel world, the Tai Kao have decimated the Dhai nation with their constant onslaught. The Tai Kao leader, Kirana, establishes a base in the temple of Oma and instructs her advisors to see if they can find a way to close the portal between the worlds. But it doesn't go well. Now, with all the connected worlds at war, only one will survive. What will the desperate people of the different worlds do to survive?
I am not suited for this kind of book.

I find that I do not read certain fiction well. Books with names and places and terms that don't roll of my tongue, or in which I spend more time trying to remember who is who because the names are so unfamiliar, simply frustrate me.

I do not read African fiction and mythology well. I do not read Middle Eastern fiction well. And I do not read a lot of epic fantasy well. Even Tolkien was a huge struggle for me and it was only after repeated attempts - an absolute commitment to understanding it - and watching the films (I'm referring to the Ralph Bakshi animated films) that I was able to sort it out.

By all accounts, I should absolutely love Kameron Hurley's work. I want to love Hurley's work. I can see the story and the intricate plotting and well-defined characters, but I absolutely get caught up and lost in the very thorough world and language she creates.

And if you think I may be exaggerating the volume of Hurley's created language and characters, know that nearly 10% of the pages of this book make up a glossary of names and terms. (If I were reading a paperback, I'd make use of that glossary, but the digital ARC of this book doesn't allow for a quick glossary check and return to the page I was reading).

(Note: After writing this review I went back and saw that I said nearly the same thing about volume one in this series.)

Based on story and character, this easily rates a 3.5-4 stars. But based on comfort and ease of the ability to actually read it, I'd rate 2 stars.

Looking for a good book? If you like epic fantasy and have no problem with picking up and keeping straight a uniquely created language, then Kameron Hurley's The Broken Heavens - the third book in her Worldbreaker Saga - is worth reading. But if you, like me, struggle to keep a unique language straight, then you might want to pass on this.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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