In the third chapter of The Will of the Empress, the group arrives in Namorn to meet Empress Berenene. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Will of the Empress.
I honestly don’t know how they’re all going to get through this.
Obviously, these characters are all resilient, powerful people, and if anyone can overcome adversity, it’s them. But Pierce slowly and subtly reveals the kind of environment they’re all walking into, and it’s a nightmare. It’s not that it’s scary or hellish or oppressive; it’s simply so different. Sandry might be able to handle most of the aristocratic nonsense here, but what about the other three? How will they be able to handle the structure and the culture of Empress Berenene’s court on top of their own issues with one another?
I think there’s a hint of a solution here: desperation. The group still bickers with one another and looks for anything to pick a fight over, and I imagine the Traders who left them behind in the meadow were pleased to finally have some peace and quiet. But when this leads to a chance meeting with Empress Berenene, the quartet changes. Why? Why does their behavior suddenly seem more jovial and friendly?
Pierce litters the confrontation scene with signs. There are signs of Berenene’s wealth, some of which Sandry notices in the clothing and embroidery. But there are also signs of her sense of propriety, too. She scolds Sandry for not bringing better guards; her guard sends up a shield of protection when Chime comes into view; she even references her own standing when talking about Chime’s creation. Everything that this scene tells us is for one purpose: to build up Berenene. We don’t necessarily fear her, but we take her seriously. We know that she’s not going to be an easy person to deal with either because she has very specific ways of doing everything.
My hope for these characters, though, comes from one section at the end of Sandry’s POV:
Sandry listened to them with the tiniest of smiles. So who we were together before, it’s not entirely gone, she thought. A common threat, and we’re closer than ever. And we all want hot baths.
It’s a start.
It’s fascinating to me that Sandry already sees Berenene as a “common threat.” Berenene hasn’t really done anything, has she? Sandry certainly has a huge conflict awaiting her as she tries to deal with her noble obligations, but why is Berenene a “threat”? I think she recognizes just how difficult the Empress will be when it comes to her foster-siblings. Life is not going to be easy for them in Dancruan. Well, I say that, but that’s because I’m basing this on her perspective. Pierce shocked me with the following section from Berenene’s POV, especially since it aims to show us that the foster-siblings might have a fantastic time with the Empress.
This book is already not following a pattern I’m used to from the Emelan series, and I adore it. Empress Berenene is a lot of things at this point: arrogant, self-centered, and powerful. Her section here details how she’s spied on Sandry and her mage friends for nearly a decade, all in the hopes of increasing her own wealth and power. While greed and ambition can certainly be negative traits, Berenene could still do good things for these people. When she speaks of Sandry, Daja, and Briar, she views them in terms of how they’ll benefit her empire. Certainly, that’s a disturbing thing, but she also wants to give these teenagers something in return to keep them within the city.
In Briar’s case, that is through is plant magic. I wasn’t surprised that she was going to try and win Briar over with her garden. Vedris had already warned him of that. But it was fascinating to see her plot to win over Daja, all so that she could take money away from Vedris and gain it through taxes. Daja would still be able to do what she loved and she’d be showered with wealth herself, so is that really the worst thing in the world? And what of Tris? She’s the wild card and the unknown variable. Even then, Berenene already knows that she can use Tris’s reputation as a terrifying mage to her benefit.
I’m guess that this is what most of the novel is going to consist of. Berenene is going to try her hardest to pull all of these people away from Emelan and use them to her advantage. Will they be aware that she’s doing this, though? They’re smart kids, and I wouldn’t put it past them.
Mark Links Stuff
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