In the fifth chapter of Emperor Mage, Daine spends a surprising and revealing day with Prince Kaddar. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Emperor Mage.
Chapter Five: Palace Tour
I don’t feel like the plot moved all the much forward in this chapter, but this was still an important part of this story. First of all, the fact that Numair is bewildered by Daine’s new ability is kind of unsettling to me??? He’s never heard of wild magic being able to revive parts of dead animals, and then this happens:
“I can’t talk with him. It’s like he’s got no mind. Be he must, mustn’t he? He looks like he can think.”
We can see the vulture understand commands, so… what? What? Perhaps Daine didn’t complete this resurrection or something? That’s the only thing that I can think of that would explain why Daine wouldn’t be able to talk to the vulture. Actually, what if this is because it was once dead? Bah, this isn’t making sense to me yet. I was happy, though, that Daine was honest with Numair and Alanna about all of this. Daine even told Alanna what Numair did to Ozorne! Good for her. I feel safer knowing that she’s sharing these sort of things with Alanna of all people because it’ll make it harder for things to get totally disastrous. Now Alanna is aware of Numair’s state and his relations with Ozorne. But what is going to come of it?
For now, though, this entire plot line is put aside so Daine can experience her palace tour with Kaddar. Like Ozorne, Pierce gives Kaddar a complicated, multi-faceted characterization. At times, I enjoy his presence, and I long for him to become friends with Daine. At others, I find his behavior gross and rude. I really get the sense that Pierce is showing us the complex life that Kaddar leads, that while he is just a teenager, he’s got years of royal upbringing and bigotry imprinted within him, things that aren’t easy to get rid of. It doesn’t help when you spend your formative years being raised by an uncle who is also a ruthless, selfish emperor, you know? Or living with a slave culture that you treat like human garbage, either. And I’m glad that Pierce doesn’t try to make us like Kaddar despite these things. All his negative traits and beliefs are presented as such.
I’ll get back to that in a second because we need to talk about this goddamn old woman. Initially, I was kind of excited! Daine was going to finally get a chance to talk to her and… her rats? Oh, okay, she is friends with rats. Maybe she has wild magic, too! Well, this should be interesting, right?
Daine stepped up her pace, only to find that no matter how fast she walked, the woman and the courtyard moved away, keeping the same distance from her as they had been when she first saw them. Kitten stretched her long nexk out and trilled, the sound harsh in Daine’s ears. Undoubtedly it was a spell of some kind, but it had no effect on the gap between Daine and her quarry.
What? WHAT THE FUCK.
When then girl halted to catch her breath, the receding courtyard picked up speed, getting smaller and smaller as it moved away. At last it vanished.
I AM THROWING MY ARMS IN THE AIR. I CONCEDE MY DEFEAT. EMPEROR MAGE WINS. I LOSE. Lord, what just happened? What kind of magic is this?
The trees, the walk, the five soldiers – all had vanished. Instead they were at the top of a long, dusty street, with no courtyards or fountains in sight. Buildings, each with a statue over the door, lined the avenue. At its far end loomed a big temple-like structure with a golden dome.
So, Daine still moved through physical space when she chased after the old woman, but she could only see the courtyard that the woman made with her magic. Holy shit, what the hell is this??? Understandably, Kaddar is immensely confused by all this, especially since Daine appeared to just run off and ignore him during this entire sequence. Like, how do you even begin explaining this to someone else?
Well, Daine almost gets the chance to do this when Kaddar takes her through the city’s temples. It seems that I now have the reason the gods are upset with Carthak: nearly every temple is abandoned. There are few, if any, offerings left behind. Dust and dirt clutter the places, and only one temple has priests at all. Later, when Kaddar is certain that no one is listening in on them, he explains why this is so:
“My uncle decreed that, since the gods are eternal and his is not, the people should not spend their money on offerings, but on taxes. Anyone caught making an offering to a god is fined the cost of the item. The priests, all but one or two, and those the oldest, have been put to work for the empire as clerks and overseers. City temples fare somewhat better than the ones here, but even they don’t look their best anymore. On the other hand, the treasury is full. That’s all my uncle cares about – more gold for weapons, and the armies, and mages.”
THIS. IS. GOING. TO. BACKFIRE. There’s no way around this!!! It’s going to happen. I mean, come on:
“My uncle says if they need to worship someone, they can worship him.” Kaddar’s shoulders drooped. “He says that he can change or ruin their lives more quickly than gods bother to.”
WELL, THERE IT IS. There’s the reason the gods have had enough with Carthak. Ozorne has set himself up to be idolized, offending the gods in the process. Oh, dude, they are going to fuck your shit up. You can tell that Kaddar is uncomfortable with what his uncle is doing, but I was more fascinated by another dynamic. Kaddar has never been allowed to speak his mind, and certainly hasn’t ever criticized his uncle before. So he does understand the complications of morality in regards to the government his father runs. This shows me two things! First, that there’s a chance for Kaddar to rebel against his uncle, and second, that he possesses the capacity to understand that slavery is wrong. So yeah, dude, come on.
Oh, hey, right! Let’s talk about that old woman again. So! She is the personal goddess of Carthak. It’s confirmed! And it makes no sense whatsoever. I AM SO LOST, Y’ALL. Didn’t the goddess tell Daine to go check out the temples? And couldn’t you also say the goddess tricked Daine into running there with that whole courtyard hallucination? So why on earth would the goddess then attack Daine in the way she did by refusing to let her speak of the place to Kaddar? WHAT IS WITH MYSTICAL BEINGS AND THEIR RIDICULOUSLY VAGUE MESSAGES? Okay, so she wanted Daine to see this place existed and to know who she was. But now she can’t tell Kaddar? But telling Kitten and Zek is fine? What are the rules, goddess??? I don’t get it!
I’m not even going to try to figure that one out, y’all. Let’s just talk about the end of this chapter! It felt very much like Alanna: The First Adventure, didn’t it? I mean, it’s a clear condemnation of the misogyny these men believe in, and I laughed at how quickly the prince’s friends were praising Daine once they saw how good she was. Oh, now you’re friendly? In your face. I’m curious to see how Kaddar treats Daine after this entire outing, though. He opened up to her, but she also irritated and confused him. Will he change the way he treats her? Oh, I can’t wait to read more.
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