The Will of the Empress Paperback – Oct 1 2006
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From School Library Journal
Grade 6 Up–This novel begins two years after the Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens series. Readers are reintroduced to the four characters who made the other series so popular: Sandry, who has worked at her uncle's these past two years; Tris, who has developed a new power that she is afraid to share; Daja, who immediately renews her link with Sandry; and Briar, who is afraid to open up because of his memories of the war. Sandry still holds the circle that binds these four individuals together, creating a strong whole out of four very diverse parts. When the book opens, they refuse to reopen the link that has made them stronger due to changes in their lives. Sandry discovers that the lands she holds for the Empress will be given away unless she returns home. Her uncle talks her friends into accompanying her. She hopes to visit her lands and leave by fall, but the Empress has other plans for her, including marriage. After the Empress meets her friends, she devises plans to keep them all. Readers will enjoy being reacquainted with these older but still very well-developed characters. This book stands alone, but readers unfamiliar with the earlier books will be asking for them after finishing this one.–June H. Keuhn, Corning East High School, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Gr. 8-11. How well word-mage Pierce understands what her audience wants, and how ably she provides it in this epic postscript to her two Circle quartets. Powers in full flush after stints of wayfaring, precocious ambient mages Daja, Briar, and Tris have finally reunited with left-behind Sandry. But nothing is quite what it was, and the 16-year-olds begin to question their telepathic connection: "As adults, we keep our minds and our secrets hidden, and our wounds. It's safer." It will take a common foe to shake the cobwebs from this partnership. Pierce provides a formidable one in Namorn's charismatic empress, who does battle with silken weapons of courtly politics to compel the mages to live and serve in Sandry's native land. Subplots deepen characterizations in ways reflective of the teens'increasing maturity: Daja discovers she is a "woman who loves women"; Sandry must confront her high-born heritage and stave off forced marriage by means of an archaic bride-stealing custom. A few threads seem to dangle in ways that cloth-mage Sandry would scorn, but little will deter readers from reveling in the elemental magics, or from sympathizing with the prickly young adults'nostalgia for the easy companionships of childhood. A standalone tour de force, this will gratify Circle devotees and ensnare new readers for the series. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Plot synopsis: Sandry has to deal with some diplomatic issue in a foreign country and is reunited with her mage foster sisters and brother. They have to overcome their flaws and differences again to defeat an unknown enemy.
Audiobook: Characters are voiced by different actors and the story is narrated by the author, Tamora Pierce. Tamora Pierce slowly articulates her words which may be too slow and dry sounding to some. The character's voices are slightly exaggerated in a stage theater style. Overall, a good production.
The characters and settings are distinct in the usual Tamora Pierce style. She creates tension and suspense very well through her narration but sometimes tension sounds forced through dialogue. Sometimes it the solution is obvious to the reader but characters are blinded by anger. There are interesting lines of dialogue as well as corny lines.
The 4 foster siblings have a realistic companionship along with all the sibling infighting. After a long line of fleshed out heroines, it is always a pleasure to have some male heroes from Pierce, namely Briar Moss, who is dealing with some sort of post traumatic stress.
Politics are in the forefront of the plot, and PierceAs the child mages mature, so do their hormones develop. There are multiple relationship subplots, but sex is only hinted at. This should be suitable for all ages.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This book brings new characters and developes the old ones much more. I can't even begin to explain everything that happens, and it would ruin it for you anyways. This book is amazing. If you like any of Tamora Pierce's books, you'll like this one. Even if you didn't like the first set of books or the Circle Opens book, you'll like this one. If you have never read any Tamora Pierce before, I strongly suggest reading the first 8 books before this one. You'll get a lot more out of it if you have watched the characters grow up and grow together.
So read this book when it comes out. You'll be missing out if you don't.
Just as a bit of a disclaimer, I do know that this particular series by Tamora Pierce is not geared towards my age group, and that's likely part of the problem. But as with her continuing _Lioness_ series, this latter book is much more readable to the older audience.
So, the adventures of Sandry, Tris, Daja and Briar continue as the latter three return from their travels to discover that, once reunited, they've grown apart. It's a bit of a shock to them, but not to any of the readers who are over 18 (the age of our protagonists) or have spent any significant time away from close friends. As people grow, age and experience life, they change, and it's hard to reconnect with people who haven't had those same experiences, especially if they were traumatic. And all of them, Sandry included, have experienced their share of trauma.
Their ways of dealing with it set them even more apart. Sandry retreats into her "titled noble" facade, Tris has her own cold and remote mask to hide behind, Briar goes through woman after woman with no attachment to any of them, just so he doesn't have to be alone at night. Daja is the best adjusted of the group, but she's feeling out of place as well. No longer allowed to stay at Winding Circle for free due to their age, she's forced to buy a house of her own that she really didn't want. Nothing's at all the same for the four friends and none of them know how to deal with it.
But, of course, a solution arrives in the form of accompanying Sandry to Namorn for a visit that her cousin, Empress Berenene has practically ordered (financial blackmail). The reader already knows that it's not likely to be a trouble free visit and what they go through up in Namorn will forge them together as friends again, but even knowing that, the story is entertaining enough to make you want to stay with it.
What follows is no surprise at all. A glittery, shiny court and a seemingly friendly empress-cousin, which is, of course, little more than a shiny facade covering up all the conniving, scheming and backstabbing you'd expect in a setting like that. It's something that takes the four friends a bit too long to grasp, to my way of thinking, given how worldly some of them are. Oh, Briar thinks he knows, but he still allows himself to be snowed over by the extensive gardens and greenhouses.
Anyone who reads the inside flap of the book knows that the empress wants to marry Sandry off and thus, keep her lands and money for Namorn (herself, really), so when Sandry finally realizes that, it's, again, no surprise to the reader. Still, Sandry does try to make the best of it, as do her friends, even while they're still in-fighting.
One pleasant development in the book is Daja's romance. It was something that had been hinted around but seeing it actually happen definitely put a smile on my face.
Of course, it all comes together when Sandry is put in danger and needs her friends to rescue her. Then all arguments are thrown aside and they band together to get her out of there and themselves out of Namorn. Not that the road out is smooth (big surprise), but it's nothing four genius mages can't handle, and, once again, nothing the reader didn't expect.
One of the major flaws in the book, the biggest, I'd say, is that every single piece of the plot is spoon fed to the reader. Every major and minor character's view point is shown at some time in the narration, so there's never any surprise when something happens, you always know it's coming. Absolutely nothing is left to the imagination, and there's no build up of mystery or suspense; you always know what will happen, and given who these four are, you always know they'll find a way out. It's a major weak point and if Ms. Pierce had stayed with only the viewpoints of the four mages, she might have had a much, *much* stronger book.
That said, it's still an entertaining story, even knowing everything that will happen. It doesn't get boring and although you already know that the four mages will find a way out of whatever predicament they're currently in, you still want to stick around and see how they do it.
I have long been an avid reader and fan of Tamora Pierce's books, at least until Trickster's Choice came along. That book was enough to cause me to not have even the slightest interest in reading its sequel. However, I did look forward to The Will of the Empress and hearing from Sandry, Tris, Daja, and Briar again.
For the most part, The Will of the Empress didn't dissapoint me as much as Trickster's Choice did. I particularly enjoyed seeing how realistic they are as adults; their travels have caused them to have secrets they no longer want to share in the once very open bond they shared through their magical connection.
The four mages have several new personality traits that were not as apparent in their younger days, with the possible exception of Sandry (she remains the noble-minded, perfect, "let's all be friends"-type character she always was). Tris, for example, became even more irritable and sometimes downright nasty to everyone. Briar, however, became exactly the way you could predict for a young man around 18 years or so: he was very flirtatious and apparently with quite a developed reputation with the ladies. As for Daja, I hadn't thought she was much different, until a scene where she kissed another female nearly made me fall out of my chair. I hadn't expected Tamora to be so open about one of her characters being a lesbian (in the past, she usually just drops a few hints here and there, like with Rosethorn and Lark), so this was quite surprising.
One flaw of the book was that if you've read Tamora Pierce's other books, you would see many obvious similarities to other books in her series. For example, Sandry hired a maid that had been badly abused, in a scene that struck me as suspiciously similar to the chapter in Lady Knight where Keladry hires Tobe. And did anyone else notice the Empress's extreme similarity to Emperor Ozorne from the Immortals series? The chapter with her touring the green houses with Briar struck me as nearly identical to the chapter of Daine touring the bird sanctuary with Ozorne. In both cases, Briar and Daine were charmed by the Emperor/Empress and their seemingly good heart concerning animals/plants. I wasn't impressed at all by the Empress, or her so-called strong will, either.
The book also had far too many kidnappings and mentions of kidnappings. By the end of the book, there were no less than three kidnap attempts on Sandry. If it were me, I'd have been out of there with the first attempt (this one didn't progress much past the threatening stage, but it still would have been enough), but Sandry remained quite unconcerned until the second (she DID try to leave after that one, fortunately).
The climax of the book was very long and drawn out, involving the four mages trying to leave Namorn and being stopped by the Empress's mages, accidents that nearly killed them, and yes, yet another kidnapping. I was starting to wonder at this point if the Empress wanted to keep the mages there out of pure spite, because if they were indeed forced to stay, I can't imagine they'd be willing to just settle down and live happily in Namorn after all of that nonsense.
To conclude, I do recommend this book to people who are a fan of the Circle of Magic and Circle Opens series, because it does tell us very nicely of who the characters have become, and what they can achieve. It is a nice conclusion to their story. The book does keep you interested and doesn't introduce too many new characters that will leave your head spinning with trying to remember them all (an excellent example of this would be Trickster's Choice, but I digress). The flaws I mentioned are really not enough to make you throw down the book in disgust or anything, so overall, the book is quite good.
Slowly Daja, Tris, and Briar return to Summersea and Sandry, but they are not the carefree youngsters they were when they left to travel with their teachers. They have things they don't really want to share with the others in their old mental link. Sandry, trying to regain their old closeness, feels rejected and angry: she feels punished. With their refusal to renew their old ties bitter in her mind, she can't believe it when they agree to Duke Vedris's request that they accompany Sandry on a long-overdue visits to the lands and family that Sandry has in Namorn.
The duke is right to worry about Sandry's trip to the north. Empress Berenene of Namorn does not like it that any of the income from the vast Landreg estates has been leaving Namorn to fill Sandry's pockets. She wants that money--and her marriageable young cousin--to stay in Namorn, where Berenene can manipulate both for the enrichment of her throne. Moreover, when she sees how powerful Sandry's three young mage friends are, Berenene decides that she wants them to stay as well. To convince the four young people to stay, the wily, beautiful and powerful empress has an empire full of tricks: great mages who can trap less powerful ones, handsome young men and women devoted to her who will court whoever she orders them to, tax laws to beggar people who look to Sandry for help, family ties like Sandry's cousin Ambros and his family, greenhouses and gardens beautiful enough to enchant even the most hard-hearted of garden mages. She is willing to offer Briar, Tris, and Daja money and power to serve her. She is intelligent, and she has a will of steel.
What can four eighteen-year-olds do against her? It is not as if they are even strong at this point: Tris is besieged by visions, Sandry by lovers, Daja by love, Briar by horrific dreams from the last two years. They have people to look after, a madman, and Sandry's new maid and her children. How can they possibly defy imperial Berenene and her powerful servants?
I have really high hopes for this book (after all, evrey single one of her books are great!)Can't Wait!
In the Circle Opens quartet, three mages -- Briar, Daja and Tris -- accompanied their mentors on separate wanderings while Sandry remained behind at the Citadel to help her uncle the Duke. All of them encountered both good and bad circumstances, but they also improved their magical abilities and social skills. After several delays, the three travelers returned to Summersea.
In this novel, Sandry impatiently awaits the return of the wandering mages. They have been out of range of her mental communications for some time and are very much overdue. The Duke is also awaiting their return.
As the wandering mages gradually come back to Summersea, they gather at Number 6 Cheeseman Street, where Daja has rented a house with attached forge. After all have returned, the Duke visits to ask that one or more of them accompany Sandry to Namorn to visit her estates. She has been under increasing pressure by the Empress of Namorn to visit there, but she should not take too many guardsmen with her lest the Empress be angered by the apparent lack of trust. However, her fellow mages could provide sufficient protection.
All volunteer to go with her and they travel with a Trader caravan to Dancruan, the capital of Namorn. Despite her lack of entourage, Sandry soon settles into the formalities of the court. But the Empress completely ignores Sandry's desire to return to Emelan at the end of the summer. Sandry gradually becomes aware that the Empress wants all three of them to remain in service to Namorn. The Empress has a strong will, but she badly underestimates these four mages.
In this novel, the three wanderers fail to resume mental communications with Sandry or each other. They all have reasons to keep their thoughts private, but this mental silence precludes the merging of their talents. The Empress is aware of their mental solitude and counts on it to further her plans for acquiring their services.
Briar has bad dreams of the war in Gyongxe and doesn't want to spread the horrible images (and smells) to his mates; he also resists the idea of consulting mind healers. Daja has bad images of her own that she doesn't want to share with her siblings. Tris just doesn't want them to know that she can see visions on the wind. Even Sandry has had some bad experiences. Each is afraid of rejection by the others, though such withheld images and thoughts are only significant to their fellows for the hurt they cause the possessor.
While these young mages retain their basic personalities, they also display some positive growth in self-esteem and social behavior. Even Tris shows some consideration of others. But only Briar has developed any skill at intersexual relations.
Although actions taken against these young mages are foreshadowed, the details of their reactions are often surprising and usually overwhelms the Empress. Even Ishabal Ladyhammer, the archmage, tries to tell the Empress that they may have overreached themselves. Yet hubris makes the Empress continue to work against Sandry and her magical siblings.
Highly recommended to Pierce fans and to anyone else who enjoys tales of court intrigues and magical talents.
-Arthur W. Jordin
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