the Little Red Reviewer

Mirrorstrike by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Posted on: February 20, 2020

 

You wouldn’t know it by how much is crammed into it, but  Mirrorstrike is a very skinny novella, around 130 pages. I could have read it in an afternoon.  So why did it take me nearly a week to read this little book? Reading Mirrorstrike was like eating the richest creme brulee,  or the lushest lemon tart. That is to say, this was an intense book for me to read, and I wanted to draw the intensity out, I wanted to read this book one delicious, decadent bite at a time.   For a week now, I’ve been trying to find the word that describes Mirrorstrike, and I finally found it – decadent.

 

Sriduangkaew strikes that perfect balance between writing lush, long sentences that transport the reader both physically and emotionally,  and short sharp sentences that tell you exactly what you need to know in one staccato beat.  I said it in an earlier blog post, and I’ll say it again: in my wildest dreams I’m able write prose this beautiful.

 

It’s a common conversation between readers, bloggers, and assorted book lovers – what kind of book do you enjoy reading?  Well friends, my answer is this, right here. This is the kind of book I love reading.

 

The first book in the series, Winterglass, introduced Nuawa and took place in her home city of Sirapirat.  For Mirrorstrike, the point of view switches to General Lussadh, and the location switches to the metropolis of Kemiraj, where Lussadh had been the crown prince until the Winter Queen came and changed everything.   Lussadh has returned to her home, to rule as the Winter Queen’s representative.

 

(Not familiar with Winterglass?  You’ll want to read that one first.  These are novellas, you can easily binge them both in one weekend)

You know,  I half expected this review to just be a list of all the reasons I love Lussadh, because she is my favorite character, and I love everything about her.  She’s a fucking badass, she’s aggressive when the moment calls for it, she’s got decades of history and choices and consequences, she’s the “strong female character” I’ve been waiting for.   I need more Lussadh in my life. And don’t even get me started on Major Guryin, who is hilarious. The melodrama between Lussadh and Nuawa? I bet this is the best entertainment Guryin has had in years!

 

Everyone in this story is playing a very long game, and everyone has secrets that are buried deeper than the glass shard in their hearts.  Yes, these two novellas take place in a much larger world, and I appreciated that Sriduangkaew doesn’t bury the reader in information. She let’s you explore the world at your own pace.

Like Nuawa’s Sirapirat, Kemiraj has endured severe climate change, due to the Queen’s everlasting winter.   The Queen sends Nuawa to be with Lussadh, and she gives the two of them a mission: find the inventor in this town, the one person who can make my god-engine function.  The inventor is living under an assumed name, but find her, and convince her to work for me. And while they’re at it, they should distract the hell out of each other.  Oh yeah, didn’t I tell you? Nuawa and Lussadh are lovers, and Mirrorstrike includes some deliciously steamy sex scenes. (spoiler: characters who love each other and can’t keep their hands off each other and  have super hot sex. If that’s not your thing, this isn’t the book for you)

 

That alone, in my opinion, would be enough to fill an entire novel.  And what the hell is a god-engine? Wouldn’t you like to know!

 

The intertwining plot threads ramp up when specific people at a dinner party are brutally and impossibly murdered.  Now it is the Queen’s turn to show her vulnerabilities – a glass bearer from her youth, from before she knew how to enslave people completely.  Known as the Heron, he’s back for revenge, he’ll destroy everyone the Queen has taken as her own.

 

It sits unspoken between Nuawa and Lussadh, the sentence that would be treasonous to even think: if the Heron was able to escape the Queen and survive, is there hope for Nuawa and Lussadh to escape too?   An encounter between Nuawa and the Heron harken back to the opening scene of Winterglass, and show plans within plans within plans.

 

I love this series because there is so much more happening around and underneath and prior to the scenes we get to see.     Everyone has their own agenda and their own victory conditions. But the story itself isn’t about those huge things. The big huge things are mentioned of course, but the plot itself is the intimate moments between characters,  and how our relationships shape our choices.

 

I really need to talk about a thing that happens at the end of Mirrorstrike, and I’m not sure  if I can talk about this without major spoilers, but I’m going to try. Something gets in the way of Lussadh and Nuawa living happily ever after.  That thing that gets in the way? The Queen offers to make it go away, by offering a bargain to Nuawa. What I am dying to know is, did the Queen make the same offer to Lussadh?

 

There’s a  bigger conversation here about how easy it is to get addicted to bargains.  About how you can pretend all you want, but what’s really happening is you are becoming the thing you thought you were only pretending at.  Reading this series of novellas makes me want to reread the Baru Cormorant books.

 

I also suddenly need to know everything about the Queen’s creation, and how everything went wrong with the Heron.  I want more stories in this world!

 

(what’s with all the Apex Books reviews lately?   They had a big sale, I bought a bunch of stuff. Now I’m finally getting around to reading it)

 

2 Responses to "Mirrorstrike by Benjanun Sriduangkaew"

Wow. I wrote both these titles down because I really liked the cover art, but now … these sound incredible. I am here for these novellas! 😁

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Novellas are such a fave. you can read the whole thing in weekend!

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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