Sunday, 18 May 2014

The Empire Trilogy #1: Daughter Of The Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

Published: June 1st 1988 by Bantam (first published January 1st 1987)
Goodreads Summary: Magic and murder engulf the realm of Kelewan.  Fierce warlords ignite a bitter blood feud to enslave the empire of Tsuranuanni.  While in the opulent Imperial courts, assassins and spy-master plot cunning and devious intrigues against the rightful heir.  Now Mara, a young, untested Ruling lady, is called upon to lead her people in a heroic struggle for survival.  But first she must rally an army of rebel warriors, form a pact with the alien cho-ja, and marry the son of a hated enemy.  Only then can Mara face her most dangerous foe of all--in his own impregnable stronghold.  An epic tale of adventure and intrigue.  Daughter of the Empire is fantasy of the highest order by two of the most talented writers in the field today.


I first heard of the Empire Trilogy when someone mentioned it in a review he wrote about Dune (from Frank Herbert, completely unrelated, I know). Always the girl to look for something new, I decided to read the summary of the first book in the series, and eventually I got hold of the novel. Let me tell you, that I was very pleasantly surprised.

Daughter of the empire takes place in a fictional world called, Kelewan. In this world, the sun is green, there exists Choja, ant-like insectoid who cohabit with human and six legged animals. Kelewan is largely based on Medieval Eastern Asian culture. This is what I loved the most about this book as usually authors use a European model to create their setting.

The protagonist, Mara is a 17 years-old girl belonging to the Acoma, a noble clan. A couple of seconds before, she pronounces her vows to become a priestess of Lashima (a goddess in the Tsurani culture), guards from her house appears and prevents her from proceeding with the ceremony. They announce her that her father and brother have been killed while leading their troops against the Midkemians, on the enemy’s land. The great majority of their army has also been decimated.  Mara is now the last living Acoma and consequently their ruler. 

The Minwanabi, the sworn enemies of the Acoma since centuries are the one to blame for their demise and they are willing to do absolutely anything to end one and for all their line. Obviously, Mara wants to take revenge over them but the task is a difficult one; she has very few soldiers left under her service, has no allies, has minimum financial resouces and is still very inexperienced.  It’s fair to say that her situation is very much desperate.

It’s an understatement to say that I liked Daughter of the Empire. I adored it. It was just so captivating and it delivered everything I love: spies, assassination attempt, and political intrigue. Feist and Wast knows how to build up tension, to the point where the reader turn the pages like a maniac in need of his drug. Even though Daughter of the Empire is listed as fantasy, there is actually little to no magic in the first book. There isn’t much romance either, but it was as well that way.

At the beginning I found all the characters slightly insensitive and cold. But to understand the characters and their motives, first you must understand their culture. Kelewan is a country in which the inhabitants follow a rigid code of honour and in which nothing is more important than this honour. In this society, a soldier who outlives his master in a battle is considered a mark of dishonour. Such soldiers may consider killing himself by his sword in order to have an “honourable” death.

In any case, I really enjoyed seeing the world though Mara’s eyes. She’s smart, independent, strong but she isn’t without flaws (anyone reading my reviews would know by now that I don’t enjoy smooth characters). She truly enjoys power and ruling, at some point in the book, she even admits to being fascinated by political games. At times she can also be a bit cruel and too stubborn.

The only reproach I have in this story is that Mara went too quickly from an innocent and inexperienced young girl to a brilliant and shrewd political strategist. Except for one mistakes at the beginning of the novel which enabled an assassin to almost hang her to death, Mara records is flawless. 

When the novel starts, Mara is a virgin who’s had a sheltered adolescence in a sanctuary, she’s never had any romantic love, no crush, sex had never crossed her mind and she knows diddly about politics. 

Yet, she decides to give up her hand and virginity to a man she knows to be gruff and prone to violence because she felt he could easily be manipulated. This decision is hers alone, she consulted none of advisers in order to take it. From a sweet sheltered virgin to a black widow in the blink of an eye, slightly unbelievable in my opinion.

In any case, Daughter of the Empire is definitely a book I would recommend.

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