I’ve had plenty of time for reading lately, just I haven’t been writing.
Wylding Hall finished with its core mystery unsolved—in fact, it finished pretty much as the blurb ends, with it’s mystery only just explained in full. That being said it was quite a good mystery in the end.
I’ll admit I spent most of The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson being confused as to what was going on. Perhaps I’m just oblivious to inter-character relationships that authors don’t immediately spell out. I was going to say that it ended all too soon, and that the book was much too short, but I went and checked and it was much longer than I thought. Confused or not, I was entranced to the end. Time flies, etc, etc.
This brings us to the Empire trilogy by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts—or should it be the The Empire trilogy? Certainly I keep forgetting what has ‘the’ in it: the book titles (Daughter of the Empire; Servant of the Empire; Mistress of the Empire), the “Game of the Council” (that is, politics), and probably a few other things that I forget that I forget.
I have all three books in one ebook, which I bought a while ago now. I read them at the time, but crucially read other books in between—this ended up meaning that I couldn’t get into the third book properly after coming back to it. Naturally, then, on this quest to read books I already have or can get for cheap I started this series that I otherwise quite enjoyed.
…of the Empire is all about feudal fantasy politics, and predates A Game of Thrones (another series I have as an omnibus ebook as it happens, but I stopped reading because I wasn’t enjoying it) by about a decade. Notably however it has what I believe is supposed to be Korean, or at least East Asian, flavour to its culture. At the start of the series, where it comes to geopolitics, the “Empire of Tsuranni” of Kelewan are at war with the “Kingdom of the Isles” of Midkemia—a much more traditional fantasy setting which is the setting of some other books by Feist that are supposed to be occurring at the same time but which I have never read—via some kind of “rift.” The father and brother of Mara of the Acoma, who was intending to join a temple, have at the start of the first book just been killed in a battle arranged by one of their domestic political enemies and Mara is thrust into the role of Ruling Lady for a suddenly very weak noble house.
The result is a kind of exponential resource gathering that I quite like in a story (e.g. in Robinson Crusoe) as she rebuilds her strength, plus some very intricate politics which are always fun when done properly. Mara learns that she really enjoys the Game of the Council, and also that it is horrific and extremely unfair to innocent bystanders. I don’t normally go much further than that into plot, but here are some observations on reread:
- My impression of Kentosani, as the Holy City where we begin the first novel but swiftly depart, was vastly different to the feel I got of it in the second book. Part is perhaps that it wasn’t very fleshed out at the time the first book was written, though I don’t know that, but I think more important is how the character approached them at the time: Mara was fleeing Kentosani in secret, fearing assassination; she returned with reluctance but in a much stronger position, the much more temporal nature of which allowed us to see (and at times run away from) a great deal more.
- I keep confusing Kentosani with Katarosi, a character from Aspects of the Divinity (also definitely on my reread list, especially if the second novel comes out).
- I also confuse Hokanu of the Shinzawai and Hoppara of the Xacatecas, second sons of a similar age who are both friendly with Mara.
- I’m not sure where names like Xacatecas come from—they seem to be more Mesoamerican than Korean.
- My memory of the order of events in Servant turned out to be completely scrambled, or rather the actual order was scrambled and I had remembered e.g. all the Kentosani scenes going together when they plainly did not. An easy thing to do in such a long and complicated book.
- I can only that Desio got his moment to shine in the other series. For an unrepentant antagonist who died off-screen (so to speak) he got a huge amount of character development over the second book, and yet while his death was a significant turning point in the plot it had so very little to do with that development that it’s as if it never happened.
- On first read the seemingly erratic switching of POV characters within chapters and even paragraphs bothered me a lot more than it does now.
- The obvious thought is “how could you modify Crusader Kings II,” a popular videogame about medieval politics, “to model the Tsuranni Empire?” It would take some doing with regards to ruleset and flavour, though I think the greatest challenge would be the map—we’re given one at the very start, but it doesn’t even remotely show the Holy Roman Empire-level territorial complexity that exists and which would be needed for an accurate game map. On the other hand, Mara’s rise to power and the Great Game in general appear to have even less to do with actual map conquest than CKII does.
- In stark contrast with Shadow and Claw from earlier, the second book actually wraps up a lot of its own plot, and both it and Daughter could easily mark the end of the story as told. In truth, this was part of why I found myself able to give up on the third book—I could pretend it didn’t exist, and didn’t need to read it to gain closure.
But no more excuses. I’ve made it to where I stopped last time, albeit over the span of several weeks, and am now ready to discover what on earth causes Mara to be labelled Mistress of the Empire.