Review: Tamora Pierce – The Will of the Empress

The Will of the Empress
Tamora Pierce
Briar, Daja, Tris and Sandry have each gone their own ways, and have now all returned to Winding Circle. But Winding Circle can not longer keep them – they are 18, and have reached the age of their majority. When Sandry’s uncle suggests that the other three accompany Sandry to her family holdings, it seems like a chance for the circle to be reformed.
The Empress is determined to court the four powerful mages and get them to stay with her. Things aren’t as rosy as they appear though, and various things conspire that Sandry soon finds herself wishing for home, even as the other three find things that they like in the Empire!
Once again, this book’s third person narration swaps between each of the four characters. Pierce makes it work really well, and it adds a further sense of continuity for the four characters. The character development is relatively obvious, as the four settle back into their relationships. Each of them has changed, but they are still able to connect and bicker as they once did. This is one of the real strengths of the novel, which takes me to read it time and time again.
Briar’s time away and how Luvo appears is something I’d really like to know more about. My suggestion for why Pierce hasn’t written about this is that it would possibly make the storyline too adult. I know that Pierce is planning a book where Tris goes to Lightsbridge, but I’m not sure if she is going to fill in any more of the time between ages 14 and 18.

Something that irritated me was the constant explaining of what a ‘kid’ and a ‘mate’ were. Perhaps in other countries, it’s not obvious that these terms refer to children and good friends, but to me, I knew what they were, and I didn’t need reminding! This was something that annoyed me a little in reading the other books of this series as well.

I would like to comment both positively and negatively for the specific inclusion of a gay/queer subplot in this novel. I’m happy that one has been included, and the idea is treated quite sensitively, but I’m not so impressed with who turns out to be lesbian. It’s a far too obvious choice to me, and seems to be playing to the stereotype of connecting sexuality and job choice. I won’t further spoil this for you, but it’s something I had to mention.

I hesitat to tag this book as queer, as some people would interpret this to mean that the entire book is about a queer character, but it really isn’t. I also wanted to label it with dragons, because Chime shows up again, but it is really a very minor role. Also, I could possibly tag it with depression, because one of the characters (not of the main four) has had several suicide attempts, but again, it’s not a focus of the novel.

I’d recommend this book, and the other eight books that came before this one, to children and teens alike. Please read them all in order! This one does stand alone, but really, why miss out on the story from before? It’s relatively family friendly, with some hints of violence and also of courtship. Some people may not be comfortable with the queer aspect, but I didn’t find it at all offensive.

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