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Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist
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2,469332,483 (4.1)88
  1. 00
    The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin (hindins)
    hindins: Another strong young female character, diplomacy and intrigue, amazing world-building and a non-european culture.
  2. 00
    Diplomacy of Wolves by Holly Lisle (kaydern)
    kaydern: Awesome female lead character, similar genre.
  3. 00
    The Man of Gold by M. A. R. Barker (sandstone78)
    sandstone78: Feist and Wurts' setting of Kelewan is highly derivative of Barker's Tekumel; fans of the original looking for more may enjoy the Empire trilogy and fans of the Empire trilogy interested in the source material may enjoy the Tekumel books.
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Source: Personal Copy
Original Review: Dragons, Heroes and Wizards

Looking for a change from your typical European Medieval setting? How about a new world with a strong eastern style culture. A world where honor is everything and disgrace means falling on your sword. A world where the game of politics determines which Great Houses survive and which are destroyed forever.

♦ My Thoughts. This story has always been one of my all time favorites; worthy of the occasional reread. When I saw it mentioned on a blog recently, I knew instantly it was time to visit with Mara again.

One important thing to note. There are some who say you really should read the Riftwar Saga first. I have but it was eons ago and I remember very little. I also can't find the books in my book pile. Likely I loaned them out or I would have reviewed those first, but...

I don't really believe reading those first is vital. Helpful, yes, vital? No. This is a totally different story in a completely new viewpoint. The main thing you need to know is that there are magical rifts between two worlds. On one side is the Empire of Kelewan, where this story takes place. On the other is side is Midkemia which the Empire is trying, without much success, to subjugate.

But the war itself plays but a bit part in this drama. The main story here is about a young 17 year old girl, only seconds from dedicating her life to a temple, who suddenly finds herself a Ruling Lady. On her tiny shoulders rests the responsibility of both her family name and its very survival.

♦ What I Liked. This book is a prime example of backstabbing politics. Fortunes rise and houses fall, all depending on a House's ability to play the Great Game. There are allies and enemies, blood feuds and annihilation. There are black magicians who are a law unto themselves. At the top of the food chain sits a merciless Warlord. And from behind the scenes the god-chosen Emperor rules them all.

To classify Mara, Ruling Lady of the Acoma, as a reluctant heroine would be understating things. Snatched from her life in a peaceful temple and thrust into the responsibilities of saving her House from total annihilation, any other girl would have curled up in a ball and wept.

But not our Mara! This poor girl, because of the strict traditions defining honor, is not even allowed to weep over the loss of her beloved father and brother. To do so would be to show weakness. So for a solid week she must show no emotion, no pain, no fear. Only once she arrives home and performs the funeral rites can she give into her grief. Talk about hooking the reader!

Unfortunately, her one show of emotion is cut short and the untried young girl must immediately dive head first into the churning waters of murky politics and an uncertain future. And she does just that. I read on in awe as she makes mistakes, recovers and finds ways to turn her misfortunes into triumphs.

It was a joy to watch.

I could continue babbling about flawless pacing, rich worldbuilding, thorough character development, incredible detail and deep immersion. But, I'll spare you. Suffice it to say there are reasons why I have read this series over and over again.

♦ What I didn't like. Normally I would use this space to discuss what I disliked about the book. However, this time I have nothing to say. The book is as close to flawless as anything I have ever read.

So, I'll discuss what I didn't like about this world and its inhabitants!

I hated Mara's future husband. As was intended.

I was fascinated and yet repelled by the system of honor. To die with honor was always preferred over living in shame. I abhorred the practices of servitude and slavery. Especially slavery. In this world slaves have NO options.

This is a society that believes in reincarnation. If you are a slave, you earned it by living a shameful previous life. Once a slave, always a slave. To rise above that station would offend the gods.

Same with servants, though they can rise to positions of responsibility. However, they can never rise above their station.

And yet, regardless of their stations, any member of a House, from the lowest to the highest, will willingly give up their lives --without hesitation-- for their Master/Mistress. Believing that to do so insures they are reborn in a higher position on the wheel of life.

Told you the culture was rich and full of detail!

♦ Conclusion. There was a unique phenomenon which occurred each day as it came time to pick up the book and start reading. I would grin and say (to myself of course) "Yes! It is time to spend some time with Mara." It was literally the highlight of my day. It has also engineered a desire in me to replace and read the Riftwar Saga. Not because I need to in order to enjoy this trilogy, but because I know that that series is just as good.

Now if you'll forgive me; it is time for me to go spend some more quality time with Mara! ( )
  Mulluane | Feb 5, 2015 |
The fast-paced, feudal-Japan style politicking makes this story a lot of fun.

From the start, I rooted for Mara. She struggles to rebuild her House after some dirty tricks in the Great Game of the Council leave her father, brother, and most of their army dead in a war against the barbarians. My admiration for her grew as she bent tradition to get what she wants. For example, she recruits “gray warriors” whose Houses have been destroyed and are tradionally supposed to roam the country in social limbo until they die (in other words, ronin). However, there’s another tradition that says warriors can swear fealty to any House they’re related to. And, since everyone in the Empire is distantly related to everyone else, she convinces the gray warriors that swearing allegiance to her is an honorable thing to do.

An underdog cleverly breaking the rules to get ahead: that’s a perfect formula for engaging your reader. It hooked me especially because Mara’s strategic, quantifiable gains made the novel seem like a narrative for a strategy video game. Mara recruits more troops, then she acquires a spy network, and so on.

On closer inspection, a lot of Mara’s crafty victories are unfair from a storytelling perspective. We’re not told about whatever esoteric aspect of honor is going to help Mara until she’s right about to appeal to it. Still, it’s an efficient way to construct plot:

1) Tell your reader that your fantasy Empire is ruled by a labyrinthine code of honor.
2) Write your protagonist into a corner.
3) Invent a rule of honor that gets her out.

In any case, watching Mara return her House to power was so much fun that I didn’t much care if the authors were firing their guns before setting them on the mantle. ( )
  CarsonKicklighter | Jan 26, 2015 |
[a:Raymond E. Feist|8588|Raymond E. Feist|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1190654917p2/8588.jpg], author of the quite lengthy Riftwar Cycle series (30 novels and 3 short stories in length), wasn’t my favorite author as a teen. In fact, I stopped reading the Riftwar Cycle somewhere around book 9, Shadow of a Dark Queen. But I loved Magician (which I talked about in a previous flashback), and more than that, I really loved The Empire Trilogy.

I think what gelled most with me about the trilogy is that the main character, Mara, rises to power in a patriarchal society based strongly on the Japanese empires of old. Society sees Mara as a weak female, subservient and docile in nature. Someone to be married off to a man who beats her and keeps her with child. She could give in to this, but instead, chooses to bend tradition, plot, and scheme to take over the Empire. (Reminds me a bit of a Japanese Xena. Wait, I think Xena was in Japan somewhere in her timeline… ;) )

I really liked that this wasn't another book about a male protagonist who saves the day.
Read the full review here: www.ravenoak.net ( )
  kaonevar | Nov 12, 2014 |
Mara is swept into the Game of Councils as the Lady of Acoma when her father and brother are killed in a plot of her greatest enemies, the Minwanabi. As a young girl, she has to learn quickly to avoid death and humiliation. There are assassinations and plots and honor to uphold, she must learn it all. And of course, learn how to play the Game.

The book opens very slowly. The reader is slogged down with descriptions and passive spoon-feeding about the characters, the plot, and the world. It's all very time-consuming, lengthy, and really not that interesting. But it picks up after Mara is ushered into the role of Lady of Acoma.

At first I found myself going "yeah! This girl knows what's up". Instead of letting things happen, she manages to grab opportunities and take risks. But somewhere after the third time this happens, I'm getting a little frustrated.

I really don't like this world. That is my conclusion. Men find it so easy to die for honor here. Oh, Bunto said a couple of words in anger that no one heard? Kill him for honor! Another man puts his household into debt? Kill him! Someone saves you on sacred ground? Let me die in honor! Ahhh I can't stand it. Does this book not treat death with true significance?

Even the way the "Game" is played makes this whole book very callous. Every single character in this book is cold-hearted and dismissive of inherent humanity. Honor is more important than life, staying in the Game is more important than family. And Mara is no exception. Her whole "goal" for this book is vengeance because her father and brother died. But instead of getting revenge and solving it like so, she kills so many other people in the same way. How can she be angry at the Minwanabi if she has essentially trapped other families into killing their own kin the same way? She is just like them. She has no moral ground to stand on. And it wasn't as if it there was a "descent into darkness" either. It was made on rational decisions for the good of her and Acoma. So what, I must conclude that at the heart of her is a cold and ruthless woman.

So why then should I root for her? The only reason I might is because she is the protagonist and I guess also the underdog. But as a character, she does not have my sympathy. At all. Especially since she is initially presented as a girl filled with deep passion for justice and revenge. Her revenge is so slight. It's not to see them dead, just gone from the game.

Essentially, this world doesn't make sense to me. The excessive honor over death mentality, the way the Game is more important than family or one's own life, etc.
I mean, come on. Also such flimsy plot mechanics by Mara - oh let me repeat a couple of words Bunto said and of course they'll take it as a killing offense. Or seeing someone murder your son and then helping them as an ally. I don't get it. I really don't. Pretty words are not enough to mitigate that. It's too flimsy for me to buy.

This book also felt very sexist. Like stereotypical gender roles were in place, despite Mara supposedly being a strong woman. Like the idea that men are lead around by their dicks and lose their mind after seeing a bit of boobage. Or the way Mara easily turns towards her sex appeal to gain advantage. Ugh.

I thought this book was strong enough on its own merits. There was definitely cohesive plot and a semi-clear goal. Characters had their own voice. The world was totally not fleshed out, but was interesting enough that you're intrigued. I don't really know what merits it over 4 stars on goodreads, but I can see why some people like it.

But it's really not for me. I don't really like Mara and I don't really care for this world. It was okay and I didn't have any trouble finishing the book. Good pacing and all that. But not a feel-good book either.

2.5 stars rounded down. It was okay.
Recommended for people who are not looking for happy endings or protagonists they want to empathize with. Recommended for those who want a story about fake machinations. ( )
  NineLarks | Sep 15, 2014 |
I received this book as a Christmas present and have saved it until summer. Feist writes books that move me. They captivate my attention and I find them hard to put down. The Empire Trilogy finds us in the world that is linked to Midkemia in which Feist introduced us to Pug and his friends and the world of magic that Pug grows into as the battles grow between these two worlds magically linked by a rift that allows passage back and forth.
Daughter of the Empire begins with the central character, Mara, about to be irrevocably admitted to the Temple as a sister when military men under her father's orders come to return her to her home. Both her father and brother, the only surviving members of her family have been killed in battle and she must assume the leadership of her Clan, the Acoma.
The world of Kelewan, more precisely, the nation of Tsuranuanni is a society based on concepts of honour and of obedience to the will of the gods.
Although Mara, only 17 years old, has now become the Ruling Lady of a very high ranking family, she is aware that intrigue has led to the deaths of her father and brother and that the powerful War Lord of the Tsurani people would like nothing more than to finish the job of ending the history of the Acoma. Mara must learn how to play the "Great Game of the Council" quickly and well if she is to have any hope at all of living!
Mara does survive through to the end of the triology but, in the process becomes my favorite female character of all time...OK, one of my favorite female characters (How can I turn my back on Anne of Green Gables?) Mara is by turns tough, resourceful, willful, ingenious, dedicated and focused.
In this first book she must counter the evil intent of the Lord of the Minwanabi by building the strength of the Acoma both militarily and economically. Mara gains the protection of another family by marriage and thereby giving up her role as Ruling Lady to her new husband. But she must regain the upper hand if she is to survive Buntokapi's brutality and to protect the heir that must be born to continue the Acoma's future.
Multiplied twists and turns, mistakes and miscalculations must be remedied while, all the might and trickery of the Minwanabi comes to play against her and her family.
  thedenathome | Aug 8, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Raymond E. Feistprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wurts, Jannymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Maitz, DonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Wat men maar niet wil inzien, is dat fantasy de schatkamer is van alles wat de mens in de loop der eeuwen aan dromen, verhalen, mythen, sagen en sprookjes heeft verzameld. En dat is niet niks, dat is een geestelijk erfgoed dat gekoesterd dient te worden. Elke tijd voegt daar nieuwe elementen aan toe en zo ontstaat een reusachtig, laten we zeggen 'bezinksel' dat het onderbewuste van de mens van nu van kleur voorziet, dat hoop en vertrouwen in de toekomst geeft. - Raymond E. Feist
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This book is dedicated to Harold Matson with deep appreciation, respect and affection.
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The priest struck the gong.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 055327211X, Mass Market Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:03 -0400)

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Mara, a young, untested Ruling Lady of Kelewan, is called upon to lead her people in a heroic stuggle 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. Queen Mara of Acoma vows to avenge the deaths of her brother and father, even if it means killing her own husband.… (more)

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