Warning: Minor Spoilers.
In this final book in Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts Empire trilogy the level of political intrigue rises (a feat I didn’t think possible after the events of Servant of the Empire) along with the stakes to make this the most exciting book in the entire series.
Mara, now Servant of the Empire (an adopted member of the Emperor’s family and an almost mythical figure, adored by the masses) is living in tranquility with her new husband Hokanu of the Shinwanazai and her children Ayaki and Justin. For now the political unrest of Tsuranni has quelled, but things are threatening to bubble over again, and a tragedy for Mara of the Acoma heralds the beginning of the biggest struggle between the Ancient Houses of the Council and the seemingly invincible Assembly of Magicians ever seen. When Mara discovers something shocking about the stagnant, ruthless culture in which she lives, she sets out to thwart her enemies and change the world once and for all.
It had been a while since I had finished Servant of the Empire, before I started this final book, and seen as I had just finished the first book in another awesome fantasy series (The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson) I wasn’t massively feeling this when I started it. I knew I had loved the previous books, but had kind of got out of the groove of the story having read the first two one after the other and then stopped for a while (I blame the person who had it out of the library and just kept renewing it for weeks!). However, as soon as I picked it up and started to read, I was hooked again, and immediately embroiled in the complex politics of Tsuranni.
It certainly helps that the action picks up immediately with a truly shocking event happening in the first chapter which changes the entire trajectory of the book. A grief-stricken Mara must face up to her enemies and avenge the great wrong done to her, but when the Assembly of Magicians bans her from going to war with her greatest enemy, the Anasati, she finds herself faced with the impossible task of thwarting the magicians who seem to be all knowing and can obliterate a person in a heart beat.
I really liked getting to see more of the Assembly of Magicians in this book, particularly the characters who were included in Magician by Raymond E. Feist when Pug is briefly a member of the Assembly. Whilst previously they seemed to simply be an order of magically gifted peace-keepers in the Empire, in this book the truth about them is revealed, and it is truly shocking. They quickly transform from a group who act without prejudice for the good of the Empire, with a majority of the magicians taking sides against Mara as she threatens to reveal their ancient secrets.
I also continued to love the main character of Mara in this book. Previously when faced with problems and threats to her family Mara had risen to the occasion with tenacity and extreme resourcefulness, and when the stakes rose higher in this final book, she takes bigger and bigger risks which kept things exciting. I also really liked her relationship with her new husband Hokanu in this book. However, I did miss Kevin from Servant of the Empire, and in many ways their contrasting temperaments and ideas made for a more interesting relationship to read about than Mara and Hokanu’s perfect understanding of one another.
I also liked the way Mara’s relationships with her servants and friends grew in this book. The pressure put on the Acoma is such that they are all at risk, yet her friends’ devotion to her was shown in their unquestioning loyalty. Mara’s relationships with Force Commander Lujan and Spy Master Arakasi in particular seemed to grow and change throughout the book, as they began to cross the boundary between Mistress/Servant and become more personal.
I also liked with this book that it wasn’t afraid to kill characters. That may sound a little weird, but one of the things I have always loved about the A Song of Ice and Fire series is that it is all the more tense and gripping for the fact you never know if your favourite character will make it, and whilst I read Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Saga and never really bought the fact that the characters were truly in danger, in this series I was genuinely afraid for some of the character’s lives, and with good reason.
Overall this was a gripping end to an incredible series. I have loved the Empire Trilogy since the first book and the start of Mara’s journey from the unsure seventeen year old girl who has the title of Ruling Lady unwilling thrust upon her, to the mature, powerful woman you come to see in this last book. She isn’t afraid to risk her life for what she believes and challenge the steadfast (and often cruel) traditions of her culture, and has quickly become one of my favourite fantasy heroines.
This is a must-read in my eyes for fans of fantasy, as it boasts one of the most complex and intriguing fantasy worlds I’ve seen in a long time (and one of the most unique), as well as having an incredible cast of characters. I loved the Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist when I read it a while back, but I definitely enjoyed his collaboration with Janny Wurts here even more.