Author: Kameron Hurley
Series: Bel Dam Apocrypha #1
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
The Overview: Nyx is a bodyguard in Mustallah, the capital city of Nasheen. The centuries-long holy war between Nasheen and Chenja is taking its toll, with shortages and rationing causing the Queen to lose power and popularity. While protecting the daughter of a Ras Tiegan Diplomat, Nyx is attacked by a group of assassins. Nyx survives, but begins to suffer from a strange, debilitating condition that nobody can identify. Caught up in a whirl-wind of intrigue involving Bel Dam Assassins plotting against the Queen, Nyx must learn who the rogue Bel Dam is, and find a cure for her illness, while avoiding the wrath of the queen she is trying to protect. The danger that swirls around her may have finally become too much, and Nyx’s colleagues and friends began to die. Will Nyx be next? -Goodreads
Hurley is such a weird author. Especially within this series. But it’s kind of like a car wreck you can’t stop looking at. Not to say her work is a disaster, but rather that the story elements are so hard to read that you wonder why you’re putting yourself through the abuse…
But the writing is so good, you brace yourself and just keep going.
A Scifi world with warring factions, political intrigue, and a magic system based on the life energy of bugs… yeah, this isn’t your typical series. I’m always drawn to creative world-building and loved what Hurley developed here, even if some of the cool elements could’ve been pushed even further. That’s the thing though – stuff like the bug magic, which would get front and center attention in any other novel – was just one more cool element to many other cool things going on in this series that it’s almost treated like an afterthought. What would it be like to have so many original ideas for a series that you’d have to pick and choose what gets highlighted? So in that regard, I think parts of this series are absolutely brilliant.
I knew before venturing into this book that the author liked to use shock value to jar the reader. I was prepared for it, and indeed she didn’t pull any punches this time around. The thing is, she’s such a creative storyteller who’s not afraid to challenge the status quo and unapologetically incorporates taboo topics in her stories. This book was bursting with originality, and I feel like I haven’t even seen half of the work that went into it behind the scenes. So with that said, the shock-value elements – the ones I felt were incorporated just to get a reaction – felt like it cheapened the overall quality of the story. I don’t think they were needed, as the story was compelling, the writing exciting, and the characters interesting on their own. I buddy read this with a couple of friends, and they weren’t as put off by it as I was, but it ended up being a huge factor in my final rating. It’s worth mentioning that the subject matter in question hit one of my personal triggers.
Overall, I appreciate this author’s unconventionality so much, I plan to finish out this series and pick up everything else she has published. I’ve tried the first book in her Mirror Empire series and found it superb, and can’t wait to explore more.
Recommendations: this weird Scifi series is not for the faint of heart, so only dive in if you’re prepared to take a few gut punches along the way. Those who can endure will be rewarded with one of the most satisfyingly unconventional stories on the market. Bug magic, people. Bug magic.
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