‘Daughter of the Empire’ by R.E Feist and J Wurts Review

December 23, 2012 6:00 pm

In typical high fantasy fiction there is an obvious lack of female protagonists compared to other genres. While there may be female characters, they are rarely ever the heroine, let alone a heroine who conquers and vanquishes Evil. Daughter of the Empire is an exception, and is intriguing enough to keep you reading.

daughterIn the first of the Empire Trilogy, Mara of the Acoma must take up the mantle of Ruling Lady of her family and get revenge on the murderers of her father and brother by way of political manoeuvring. It is a matter of honour – a value used almost as a resource in Tsuranuanni, the fantasy land in which the Acoma are nobles.

The book itself is somewhat lacking in reason. Mara is a beguiling yet mysterious character, even to the reader, which often makes it hard to actually understand her as a real person. Where power is determined by the ‘Game of the Council’, which Mara quickly learns, her plots are rarely ever explained until they come into fruition. In some cases, like her short marriage in the book, it is done impressively, hooking you as her power deteriorates. In others, her schemes and their successes feel odd and unbalanced, given that Mara comes across inexperienced in such matters. It is rather unbelievable that she jumps from a feeble temple goer to a vicious schemer in a short amount of time.

Despite doubts over the main character, Daughter of the Empire creates a beautiful, although strange, world. The Empire of Tsuranuanni is heavily influenced by ancient Japanese culture, as well as Roman and Medieval. This actually works when you manage to truly understand and begin to visualize the land, but it is something which needs to be established earlier on. When Mara arrives at her family’s house, details are given describing sliding paper walls. It is more than a little perplexing at first, though after a while a distinct and unique world manages to emerge.

by Vidagr

As far as political intrigue goes, the plots themselves are shallow, relying on an honour system which is very unclear. The narrator explains what the key parts of the honour system are, but only at times when it is convenient for plot progression, making it appear as if it is being made up as the writers go along. The victories of the browbeaten Mara lose a lot of their power this way.

More interesting than the plots are the relationships between Mara and her servants, especially warriors Keyoke and Papewaio. Their unflinching loyalty to her is touching, especially when Mara betrays certain cultural traditions, which they hold with iron stoicism. Even when she gives up her position briefly, and they are sworn to a new Lord, their little displays of loyalty are what really make the book a good read.

Daughter of the Empire is strange for its genre, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A female protagonist works as well as any male, even if Mara’s schemes make overt use of seduction and marriage – typically weapons for women in high fantasy. The world is almost ethereal in its beauty and endearing oddities, though the web of politics never feels real or consequential. If you are looking for something different to read within the genre, give Daughter of the Empire a try.

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