In the eleventh chapter of The Will of the Empress, Berenene surprises Landreg Castle with a visit, and Sandry learns just how complicated her life will be. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to read The Will of the Empress.
You know, itâ€™s like with each new chapter, Tamora Pierce comes up with a way to complicate this further, assuring that Iâ€™ll feel more and more tension. This is a slow-burn thriller that is going to lead to some inevitable showdown between the Circle of Friendship and Berenene, right? Like, thatâ€™s where this is going? Iâ€™m scared. SCARED.
Itâ€™s finally crystal clear to me: Empress Berenene is so used to getting her way by offering fame, power, and money that she cannot fathom someone not being interested in those things. As I was reading the opening section of this chapter, it struck me that she fundamentally did not understand what appeals to Sandry. Sheâ€™s not lacking in astuteness or cunning, so how could Berenene miss the mark so quickly?
â€œStaying abed while Sandry goes riding with a tiny escort â€“ really! I donâ€™t care if they had caught pneumonia, the girl will never be convinced of their devotion if they are not constantly at her side. They would have looked so brave, shaking their swords at fer Holm.â€
Well, not to Sandry. Sandry has no interest in masculine displays of courage at all. Her disinterest in Jak and Fin has nothing to do with their devotion. Hell, as weâ€™ll see later in the chapter, their devotion is precisely what irritates her! She also isnâ€™t eager for imperial entertainment, nor is she uninterested in joining with her foster-siblings. Berenene doesnâ€™t know that two of the connections have been reformed, whichâ€¦ fair enough, how would you know that? Still, the woman both underestimates these people and barges on, certain that her will is all that she needs. Itâ€™s Ishabel who knows that she cannot think lowly of the four foster-siblings. She takes their prodigies seriously. Which is good because they should be respected! Itâ€™s also bad because WHAT IF ISHABEL DOES WHATEVER BERENENE WANTS TO TAKE THEM DOWN. Which will probably happen. SIGH.
Oh lord, Iâ€™m so pleased that Sandry and Daja are casually using the magical connection between one another to communicate again. ITâ€™S SO LOVELY. Itâ€™s also necessary at this point. As the foster siblings get further and further into this courtâ€™s culture, theyâ€™re realizing that they canâ€™t speak openly and honestly as theyâ€™re used to. So Iâ€™m guessing that through sheer desperation, theyâ€™re going to start using their connection more often, like how Daja notifies Sandry of Bereneneâ€™s arrival here. With so much deception and entendre and layered meanings and such, theyâ€™re going to need to find a way to speak to one another.
Regardless, Sandryâ€™s sections of this chapter highlight the anxiety and stress sheâ€™s currently under. As I said at the beginning of this, itâ€™s like some new wrinkle of awfulness is added to this predicament constantly. Here? There are numerous of them! Thereâ€™s Sandryâ€™s conversation with Gudruny, where Gudruny points out that Berenene is â€œone of those who cannot believe that not everyone has her strength of mind.â€ Then, thereâ€™s everything Sandry learns from Shan. Itâ€™s unfortunate that they can never be anything more than friends because they get along so well. But hey, thereâ€™s nothing wrong with friendship! Platonic, non-romantic friendship is A FORCE FOR ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THE WORLD.
Still, this book is about Bereneneâ€™s attempts to control Sandry. Early in this chapter, we hear her refer to Sandry as her property, and from what we can gleam from Shanâ€™s words, itâ€™s obvious that Jak and Fin were sent after Sandry because the empress could still control them even after a marriage. I have no problem viewing Berenene as this bookâ€™s antagonist anymore becauseâ€¦ well, shit! Sheâ€™s so disturbing. The way she views people is soâ€¦ inhuman! Thatâ€™s the best word I can come up with. Theyâ€™re all pawns to better herself and her wealth and power. That means that any men sent after Sandry are merely pawns of the empress anyway. Thereâ€™s no love or romance in these prospects; just the promise of a life of courtly servitude to a woman who does not respect personal autonomy.
Oh my god, THIS IS SO AGONIZING. Itâ€™s not infuriating, though, because Dajaâ€™s growing attraction to Rizu isnâ€™t a tease. Itâ€™s real. Itâ€™s happening. ITâ€™S EVERYTHING. I love so much how this is described, though. Dajaâ€™s attraction is like a burst of electricity through her body. Itâ€™s a physical thing, one she canâ€™t ignore. But sheâ€™s also not entirely understanding whatâ€™s happening to her. At one point, she even wonders if sheâ€™s â€œcoming down with some sicknessâ€ because she hasnâ€™t come to terms with her sexuality. I donâ€™t feel like Pierce is leading to a bait-and-switch, though; this feels genuine. AND I CANâ€™T WAIT FOR IT TO FURTHER DEVELOP.
Tris / Briar / Zhegorz
Look, Iâ€™m taking it as a personal inspiration to be able to read a book where an author deftly switches between up to six different perspectives in a single narrative. Itâ€™s so smooth! Iâ€™m just thankful that while this might be a Sandry book, itâ€™s still heavy on the other three foster-siblings and their stories. Here, Tris opens up her connection to Briar, if briefly, because of books. BOOKS. Iâ€™m not emotional, youâ€™re emotional. Itâ€™s interesting to me to see who reaches out to who first. Sandry and Daja were able to open themselves up first, which makes sense, given how close they always were. Tris and Briarâ€™s connection is timeless because Tris taught him a skill heâ€™ll always cherish, you know?
Anyway, Iâ€™m hoping that maybe Tris and Briarâ€™s newly forged connected, even if it was a very small, brief thing, will help them deal with Zhegorz. Itâ€™s so sad to know that he was abandoned and ignored for over thirty years; thatâ€™s a lot of damage to undo. And somehow, Tris and Briar have to help him work through this while also dealing with all their imperial duties. How? What if Berenene discovers what Zhegorz is able to do and takes him away from them? I know thatâ€™s one of Zhegorzâ€™s fears, but itâ€™s not all that unreasonable. Perhaps Briarâ€™s flirtations will keep Berenene away. I donâ€™t, I am totally grasping at straws here, yâ€™all. I DONâ€™T KNOW HOW THEYâ€™RE GOING TO PULL THIS OFF.
The original text contains use of the word â€œstupid.â€
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