If you have ever read the writings of Raymond Feist or Janny Wurts, you may have noticed that his characters seem flat and her novels are overloaded with detail. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that The Daughter of the Empire is a superb fantasy novel, possibly the best I have read. The Empire Series is a collaborative effort by Feist and Wurts set on the other side of Feist's "Rift". Although independently both of these writers tend to be dull, together they have created a rich world, with sweeping landscapes, cunning political machinations, and the absolute best character I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Mara is the strongest woman you will ever encounter, and could easily subdue any Aes Sedai including the Amyrlin herself--if channeling was not allowed *g* (for you Wheel of Time fans). I am deeply saddened that there will never be another Kelewan book, or so Feist himself says in his official FAQ *sigh*. I would love to read more about Mara or Kevin or Justin or Arakasi or. . you get the idea *g*. Also, on October 29, 2000 I sent an e-mail to Janny Wurts asking about Kelewan (I'd heard rumors she was planning a new series set there). She replied and said that neither she nor Ray have any plans for any projects set in Kelewan.
Once you pick up Daughter of the Empire you will become thoroughly entrenched in the traditional politics of the "Game of the Council," the driving political force of the country. Based on an ancient Eastern culture, most of the cultural expectations are totally foreign to Westerners. Because of the alien culture, the characters do not respond to problems as we might expect them to, which always lead to interesting plot twists. All characters must adhere to a convoluted code of honor, which often seems ridiculous to Western minds. Mara is the first noble to break these rules, but she does so in a way that no one can find fault with. It is her willingness to take chances that allows her to survive the wrath of her enemies.
Mara is not the only important character in the series. Feist and Wurts introduce a cast of unforgettable characters who are well developed and true to life. From spymaster to childhood nurse, the characters will make you root for them against all odds. This is not to say they are perfect--far from it--but this humanity is what makes them real. Even Mara can be cruel when she needs to prove she is powerful, or must prevent a disaster from falling on her House.
This unique series is a must read for anyone who enjoys action and unexpected plot twists. Many of the fantasy books I have read are set in a Tolkein type world, or at least in a world with Western beliefs, which can become rather predictable. This book is very different, which makes it a lot of fun. Not only is it great entertainment, but it also is a great "thinking book" if you care to ponder the meaning of basic human rights and how tradition can lead to oppression. These questions become even more apparent in the Servant of the Empire and Mistress of the Empire. This series is my favorite fantasy series, and I truly enjoy the deeper political meanings that accompany the non-stop action. I have recommended the books to many people, and so far everyone who has taken my advice seems to really enjoy them too. And, as a bonus, the cover art for all the books is truly superb.
If you are a Feist fan, click on the banner below for his publisher's Official Krondor website.