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The Will of the Empress
10 July 2019
I know, I know here she goes again with another Tamora Pierce I can t help it, I just love her characters and world building to the moon and back This one was really difficult for me to read Tris, Briar, Sandry, and Daja have been separated for years Naturally, they ve grown apart and unaccustomed to sharing their thoughts with each other but seeing them shut the others out so completely is heart wrenching I very much enjoyed experiencing the court customs in Namorn, even if I didn t particularly enjoy every member of the court It made my blood boil to watch certain people intentionally drive wedges between the four Seeing the adults that these unique children have grown in to is amazing and I loved being part of their story Oh so highly recommended. update from the 2016 reread the below is still true A THOUSAND times over I read it slowly this time, and although that was a struggle in itself I loved every agonizing second I must have read this book a dozen times over since it was first released It s my first go to when I can t fall asleep, or when some book hasn t had a satisfying ending, or when I m feeling especially down on myself I don t even know what else there is to say about this book, other than that it s one of those whose scenes I ve committed to memory because the deep love these four kid have for each other is so significant and profound that it leaves you completely floored. For Years The Empress Of Namorn Has Pressed Her Young Cousin, Lady Sandrilene Fa Toren, To Visit Her Vast Lands Within The Empire S Borders Sandry Has Avoided The Invitation For As Long As It Was Possible Now Sandry Has Agreed To Pay That Overdue Visit Sandry S Uncle Promises Guards To Accompany Her But They Re Hardly A Group Of Warriors They Re Her Old Friends From Winding Circle Daja, Tris, And Briar Sandry Hardly Knows Them Now They Ve Grown Up And Grown Apart Sandry Isn T Sure They Ll Ever Find Their Old Connection Again Or If She Even Wants Them To This book still makes me so mad I realize it was likely written to show the breakdown of the circle s relationships, but even years later it still makes no sense to me given the first and second quartets And the way they interact and treat one another in this book is a far cry from the other ones, when they were actually friends, and close enough to call one another family.What I hate about Will of the Empress is how it just makes a mockery of their relationships with one another, and for no actual reason More and as I read TP s newer books I find that they re just not as engaging as the older ones I can still re read the CoM series and the circle opens, or alanna, daine, and kel s tortall books and love them, but the newer ones are just becoming less and less compelling with less and less likable characters and less and less interesting plots.It s sort of sad, really More than that, in this book, the characters just don t feel like themselves Why does Sandry, who has always been the most kind and the first to help anyone, scold Tris for helping people Why does Vedris, who has always been patient and affectionate with Sandry, scold her for not reading reports the second she gets them, when she does always read them And why do the four, who have been friends for years, spend two years randomly not talking or getting on even when three of them live together And then there s the way they acted in Namorn.Even when they finally open up to one another, the relationship falls flat in comparison to the earlier two quartets Every books since Shatterglass in this series has been an utter disappointment Melting Stones was okay, but the others seen to have little of the heart and care of the earlier books. This book is 500 pages of hurtling towards a stunningly abrupt end The book is a slow build there isn t a terrible lot happening, and you find yourself switching between POVs too much to really engage with any one character There are no heavily plotted moments to provide momentum and development to the story Daja s storyline is especially static she s essentially written out of the book towards the end because her queer romance wasn t good enough for any real screentime Which I suppose could ve been a publisher mandate, but it did serve only to emphasize my feelings the Daja is easily the most underserved the marginalized one of the four The Will of the Empress had a lot of problems There s some awesome victim blaming on Sandry s part, wherein she only rescinds her gross ass statement that a woman who lets her husband beat her because she had no pride when she finds out this woman was forced to marry against her will This kind of thinking implies that women who are anything less than physically forced into an abusive relationships are somehow culpable for the behaviors of their shitty partners and that is an awful, damaging viewpoint that people hold in real life I get that Sandry s viewpoint isn t necessarily the the author s, but I feel like this perspective was presented without much discussion All that aside, the motivations of the characters were just rather baffling Sandry in particular was off kilter I get that Pierce was trying to show her growing out of the remainder of her childish petulance, but the problem was that, while Sandry has always been eminently capable of acting like a child, she has never seem particularly attached to any of the trappings of nobility The fact that she had such mulish, awful stubbornness towards retaining her Namornese properties felt rather out of character Similarly, much of the tension between the four seemed manufactured on the author s part to draw out the conflict in the story Also, as I mentioned above, the actual resolution came so quickly it was unsatisfying Suddenly the characters gave a summary of their respective Circle Opens books except Briar and all is well Also, it almost felt like Briar received preferential treatment He was the only character who actually had something happen to him in the four years between the end of his book and the start of this one It was jarring to have Briar make references to stuff that had never happened on screen when everyone else only regurgitated information that we had already received The Will of the Empress is an unwieldy mess of a book with uneven, inconsistent characterization and sloppy emotional resolutions I think I need to give these characters a break after a disappointment like this I ll be holding off on Melting Stones and Battle Magic. I had to really think about what rating to give this On one hand the book is very flawed but on the other, I didn t want to put it down.Just as a bit of a disclaimer, I do know that this particular series by Tamora Pierce is not geared towards my age group, and that s likely part of the problem But as with her continuing Lioness series, this latter book is much readable to the older audience.So, the adventures of Sandry, Tris, Daja and Briar continue as the latter three return from their travels to discover that, once reunited, they ve grown apart It s a bit of a shock to them, but not to any of the readers who are over 18 the age of our protagonists or have spent any significant time away from close friends As people grow, age and experience life, they change, and it s hard to reconnect with people who haven t had those same experiences, especially if they were traumatic And all of them, Sandry included, have experienced their share of trauma.Their ways of dealing with it set them even apart Sandry retreats into her titled noble facade, Tris has her own cold and remote mask to hide behind, Briar goes through woman after woman with no attachment to any of them, just so he doesn t have to be alone at night Daja is the best adjusted of the group, but she s feeling out of place as well No longer allowed to stay at Winding Circle for free due to their age, she s forced to buy a house of her own that she really didn t want Nothing s at all the same for the four friends and none of them know how to deal with it.But, of course, a solution arrives in the form of accompanying Sandry to Namorn for a visit that her cousin, Empress Berenene has practically ordered financial blackmail The reader already knows that it s not likely to be a trouble free visit and what they go through up in Namorn will forge them together as friends again, but even already knowing all of that, the story is entertaining enough to make you want to stay with it.What follows is no surprise at all A glittery, shiny court and a seemingly friendly empress cousin, which is, of course, little than a shiny facade covering up all the conniving, scheming and backstabbing you d expect in a setting like that It s something that takes the four friends a bit too long to grasp, to my way of thinking, given how worldly some of them are Oh, Briar thinks he knows, but he still allows himself to be snowed over by the extensive gardens and greenhouses.Anyone who reads the inside flap of the book knows that the empress wants to marry Sandry off and thus, keep her lands and money for Namorn herself, really , so when Sandry finally realizes that, it s, again, no surprise to the reader Still, Sandry does try to make the best of it, as do her friends, even while they re still in fighting.One pleasant development in the book is Daja s romance It was something that had been hinted around but seeing it actually happen definitely put a smile on my face.Of course, it all comes together when Sandry is put in danger and needs her friends to rescue her Then all arguments are thrown aside and they band together to get her out of there and themselves out of Namorn Not that the road out is smooth big surprise , but it s nothing four genius mages can t handle, and, once again, nothing the reader didn t expect.One of the major flaws in the book, the biggest, I d say, is that every single piece of the plot is spoon fed to the reader Every major and minor character s view point is shown at some time in the narration, so there s never any surprise when something happens, you always know it s coming Absolutely nothing is left to the imagination, and there s no build up of mystery or suspense you always know what will happen, and given who these four are, you always know they ll find a way out It s a major weak point and if Ms Pierce had stayed with only the viewpoints of the four mages, she might have had a much, much stronger book.That said, it s still an entertaining story, even knowing everything that will happen It doesn t get boring and although you already know that the four mages will find a way out of whatever predicament they re currently in, you still want to stick around and see how they do it. Tamora Pierce has tackled some pretty tough subjects in this story such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, madness, homosexuality, professional jealousy and ostracism, heartbreak, as well as the quieter trouble of growing apart from close childhood friends The novel is written with vivid details and natural, realistic dialogue The use of magic fits well into the story, so that the reader doesn t even have to think about the fact that many of the things described should be physically impossible As one might expect from a Tamora Pierce novel, this story is filled with memorable characters and sayings, and the story stands up on its own, though a reader might enjoy it if he or she is already familiar with the Circle characters Although this is in the young adult category of fantasy fiction, the Will of the Empress contains lessons for all age groups and can be enjoyed by teens and adults. God, why do I still read Tamora Pierce books I m way too old I can see so many flaws in her writing than when I was 13.For a YA read, it s decent However, if I didn t recognize the characters that I d first read about when I was in junior high, I wouldn t be drawn to this at all Fortunately, every page drips with nostalgia, and it s nice to indulge now and then Plant magic Fashion design mage noble tearful action girl, Sandrilene Friends in conflict Political intrigue Lesbians Oh right, lesbians this is the Tamora Pierce book where she added to the lesbian mage foster moms she already had in her canon, and made a major character, Daja, gay I d have to say I found all the relationships in this book unsatisfactory and awkward, though, lesbian ones included Briar makes an unconvincing PTSD affected playboy Sandry s ardent kidnapper suitors were dull, and that was unfortunate, given that it was the entirety of the plot until the feeble battle with Grandma Mage tacked on at the end Tris s I m too fat to be loved, mean boys dumped honey on me revelation was probably the most body image unhealthy thing I ve read in a YA novel to date, and it made me want to laugh and shake my head at the same time, probably not the reaction Pierce was going for Daja s revelatory fling with Rizu, while inclusive, was still portrayed as an obstacle to the friends all being together as a fightin mage team again The queer positive messages about Daja were undermined a little when she was characterized as ignoring Sandry being kidnapped with the looming threat of rape , because she was too busy smooching her new girlfriend.I d recommend this book to the YA set for sure, but nobody else I think high school aged lesbians and their friends in particular would love this one, and it s suitable to list as a queer content YA book It s not a book based on a lesbian relationship, but a portrayal of a group of friends with mixed social and ethnic backgrounds where one happens to be gay and has a cute romance It s full of drama and the power of friendship magic triumphing over some mean old ladies and wizards If you re over 16, though, the weak and flimsy plot will probably bore you. As a young girl growing up, I devoured anything with swords, knights, magic, medieval themes I even owned my own wooden sword, my name engraved in the hilt, and eagerly persuaded the sons of family friends to teach me to sword fight For a time, my reading centred around The Hobbit, Narnia, nonfiction about castles and Tamora Pierce Her writing was a lifeline in an inundation of male centric fantasy Her characters had a knack for inclusiveness and diversity before it was even considered a conversation worth having how embarrassing for the genre how embarrassing for the world.So no, maybe all her works aren t perfect Maybe there s further to push, maybe she sometimes gets it wrong, maybe the stories aren t all as vibrant or fluid as they could be most are, though But they taught me, or at least cemented my beliefs Women can do anything, can be knights and slay monsters Men can do anything, can be gentle and quiet and create life Any person of any gender should not have to prescribe to stereotype Never take no as an answer unless it hurts someone Consent is everything Love can be between anybody, of any gender, any race, and that is beautiful This is all relevant to this book, I promise.The Will of the Empress picks up the disparate threads of Tamora s Circle quartets, bringing the four main characters back together in a space filled with tension and conflicts, both within and without And I thought it was done beautifully The story is a little slow, with a wild rush finale, but I loved it for this The slowness of pace allows the tension to build, allows bonds to be broken and remade, before the climax forces these bonds to be tested to their limit.Daja was always my favourite of the Circle, without question, and is even firmly so after reading this To have read so many negative reviews of this book that are purely because Daja has a relationship with a women are you fucking serious There are even comments such as how could you ruin my favourite character in this way Firstly, why the shock that Tamora has written a gay couple As if she hasn t before and explicitly within this series too as if Rosethorn and Lark never existed And secondly, someone please explain to me exactly why this is so wrong, without mis quoting out of context a self contradicting book written forever ago I won t even pretend that there is a valid argument to have, but explain away Go on.Daja is fantastic, has always been fantastic, her metal working is kickass and as an artist I am forever envious and I seriously hope that the final book of this trilogy comes out soon as we have waited long enough I want her happy ending These Full Cast Audio productions are the best things I ve come across this year My favourite stories, narrated by the author whose slow, slightly stilted reading feels clumsy at first but soon becomes soothing and mesmerising , acted by a full, perfect cast, and even produced by the author of another childhood favourite series Even a 21 hour cross world flight home was almost something to look forward to, knowing I d have uninterrupted hours of Tamora Pierce stories to listen to.