Here are the plot summaries for each book. There are no spoilers if you just read the summaries for the book you are working on, but if you read the next summary it will give away essential plot pieces, so be careful!
Daughter of the Empire
Imagine a young seventeen year-old girl, 15 chimes away from becoming a nun. Imagine a girl totally unprepared to rule a great house or survive deadly intrigues. Imagine Mara, Daughter of the Empire.
When we first meet Mara she is content in her decision to abandon her House and serve Lashima, the goddess of Wisdom. Before the ceremony can be completed, the Commander of the Acoma forces rushes into the temple with shocking news: all of Mara's family is dead and she is now the Ruling Lady of a great house that is in danger of being destroyed forever.
Although raised with the intrigue of the Great Game, Mara has not been trained as a Ruling Lady. It was always expected that her brother would take on the leadership of the Acoma, when Lord Sezu died. Being thrust into this unexpected role is is difficult enough in the best of circumstances, but can be deadly in poor circumstances.
Mara's death would mean the end of the Acoma line, and the second most powerful house in Tsurani would like nothing more than to see Mara dead--a task he thinks will be simple, since she is just an untried girl. He never considered her unorthodox methods of leadership.
At the very beginning of the book Mara learns she only has 37 soldiers left to defend her estates, she is running out of income, and assassins are trying to kill her. Rather than give up, she stretches the limits of honor and finds soldiers in the most unusual of places. She plots and plans and eventually secures trading rights with an insectoid race. She even gives up her role as Ruler to a brutal husband, making the supreme sacrifice--her freedom--for the survival of her house.
This book whets your appetite for the next book in the series. Can Mara possibly defeat the insane Minwannabi? Will she finally find peace with a good man? Will the other houses sit back and let her bend tradition as she pleases? Keep reading the series to find out!
Servant of the Empire
Although the young and untried Mara was able to survive the deadly blood feud with the Minnwanabi in Daughter of the Empire, she now faces a new, more cunning enemy. In DotE, Mara forces Jingu, the Ruling Lord of the Minnwanabi, to take his own life according to the traditions of Tsurani honor. The new Ruler of the Minnwanabi, Desio, calls in his devious cousin to put an end to the Acoma line. He even makes a binding vow to the Red God (God of Death) to utterly destroy Mara and her child. If he does not fulfill this vow he will have to kill himself and his whole family.
The very best part of the Servant of the Empire is Kevin, Mara's slave. Kevin is a noble from the other side of the Rift who was captured during the war. The Tsurani have no respect for war criminals, since honor demands that soldiers commit suicide rather than be captured by enemies. Kevin's world has a very Western view of the world, which leads to a interesting conflicts between Mara and Kevin. Mara soon realizes that many of Kevin's beliefs make sense. By applying the ideas she learns from Kevin she is able to strengthen her own position.
After Mara's loveless marriage in DotE she deserves some personal happiness. Kevin is Mara's soul mate--the only man she has ever loved. He would do anything for her, even if it meant his death. He is often forced to take up weapons, punishable by death for a slave, in order to defend his Lady. The end of the book is very poignant because Mara must decide if she loves Kevin enough to let him go.
Although Mara now has a good man, she also has many more political problems. Tasio, Desio's cousin, sets Mara up for certain death by forcing the powerful houses to send Acoma forces across the sea to protect Tsurani interests in their desert colonies. Unbeknownst to Mara and her army, the Minnawanabi are paying the desert tribes to destroy Mara. Her only chance of survival lies in the very untraditional notions introduced to her by a slave. If the Acoma forces can overcome the bonds of tradition and take military advice from Kevin, they my have half a chance of ending the war.
Once the war is ended and she is able to come back home, Mara must attend to politics in the Holy City. This is a dangerous place to be, especially when a rogue magician from Kevin's homeland all but destroys the city. The palace itself isn't safe--it is the setting for the Night of the Bloody Swords, where assassins and houseless soldiers leave a bloody path of destruction in one evening.
Can Mara survive the plots of the Minwannabi? Can she and Kevin ever love each other as equals? Will there ever be effective political change in the stagnant Kelewan? These are all questions that must be answered in Mistress of the Empire
Mistress of the Empire
The land of Tsurani finally seems at peace, Mara is happily married to Hokanu, and life could not be better. This is all shattered in an instant when an assassin's dart kills Ayaki, Mara's oldest son. Thrown into the depths of grief, Mara is not capable of adhering to protocol at her sons funereal, setting the very structure of the Empire at risk.
Although Mara has been adopted by the Emperor of Tsuranni and given the prestigious title of Servant to the Empire, she is not exempt from the plots of her enemies. A man she once scorned in love rises to the forefront and engages in a war with the Acoma. When the Great Ones step in Mara gains a new, all powerful enemy. In order for Mara to avenge her son's death she must find a way to defeat the Great Ones--those men whose very words are law.
No one in the Empire can help Mara but the alien Cho-ja point her to the East, where she may be able to find the solution to her problems. Mara knows the only way she can leave the Empire is to travel as a servant bereft of all the protections her status of Ruling Lady affords her. She learns what it is like to be treated as a piece of livestock--to have her very life at the mercy of another.
In this book readers are also treated to a glimpse of Arakasi's life, the Acoma spy master. He is often in midst of danger, including a time he is sent to kill the most deadly man in the nation. There are also some particularly grizzly moments when we witness Arakasi's ability to torture a man for the love of his Lady.
We also get a very good look at the motivations of Mara's husband, the Lord of the Shinwazai, Hokanu. One of the most exciting scenes is when Hokanu is attacked by assassins in a prayer gate, and he must fight them even though he is gravely injured. If he does not survive, his wife will most likely be dead.
There is much more that goes on in this book, but to even mention it would ruin the book. Suffice it to say that the last scene is my all time favorite scene in any book.
I hope you enjoyed the series as much as I did. I am not a fantasy fan, but these books are on my list of all time favorites.