(This review is for the Empire Series: Daughter, Servant, & Mistress)
When I first read Daughter of the Empire, I had just finished reading Darkness at Sethanon. I was looking for something more of the Kingdom, and was really just settling for something the Tsurani Empire. I was hooked very quickly and this became one of my favorite series.
Some earlier critiques have suggested that the is excessive repetition of themes and plot in the book, even to the extent that it became boring. I agree with this to some extent, but believe they have missed an important point.
Throughout the books, the idea is that this is a culture steeped in tradition. It is stagnant and rotting with self-inflicted wounds. Mara sees her only route to survival and the only hope for the survival of her people in the evolution of their culture. In addition to the political machinations of those who seel to capitalize on her weakness, she also has to deal with the powerful who resist her revolutionary ideas.
The repetition is intentional, the reader truly sees the problems of the continuous political battling and feels the frustration that is necessary for their joy at the resolution. I would say the Janny and Raymond have truly tapped into the psychology of the READER.
Mara is one of the most well-developed characters I have ever seen in this genre. I can say that I began responding as though I loved her. I felt her pain, wept for her nobility and sacrifice, cheered her successes and mourned her losses. When the stories were over, I actually missed her.
Rarely in this genre are strong female characters allowed to be -female. Usually, strong woman are shown to be strong in the way that they can act like men. Mara is different. She is strong in her femininity and tough as nails as a woman. The fact that so many men (readers that is) fell in love with her, tells me Wurts and Feist put the story together very well.
I am usually a tough sell for emotional involvement in stories, but certainly got caught here. Anybody who loves fantasy and does not read this is missing something. Any Raymond Feist fan who misses this is missing something important. Oh, I know some of the other side tales (Voyager publications: Honoured Enemy, Jimmy the Hand, Murder in Lamut) were not up to Feist (though I still enjoyed them), but the Empire series is at par with Feist or perhaps even better than some of his stories.
Read it for the incredibly strong female character that always remains a woman and never becomes a man to be strong.