Mark Reads ‘The Will of the Empress’: Chapter 14

In the fourteenth chapter of The Will of the Empress, the group adjust to Daja’s revelation, and Sandry deals with a nightmare. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Will of the Empress.

Trigger Warning: For kidnapping, nonconsensual drugging, misogyny, fear of the dark

Holy shit.

Tris and Briar

What brings these two foster siblings closer together? A common realization: that the entire culture surrounding these nobles is garbage. It’s a game with constantly shifting rules and a misguided sense of importance. After the horrifying experience that Briar just went through in Gyonxe, it’s gotten harder and harder for him to ignore the massive juxtaposition between the two worls. In his frustration, he leaves the palace, using his magic to silently invite Tris with him to the greenhouses. It’s here that they share a moment of understanding with one another over the culture in the Dancruan palace. What I love about this is that it feels so natural. There’s ceremony to them opening up their connections; they just speak to one another as if they always had done so.

Daja and Rizu

While I understand Briar’s concerns – Berenene’s court is obligated to do as she wants over everything else – I am mostly just ecstatic that Daja is ridiculously in love. Of course, because the events of chapter thirteen weren’t enough, we get this:

“Daja, why didn’t you say you’re a nisamohi?” he asked, using the Tradertalk word for a woman who loved other woman. “What with Lark and Rosethorn, did you think we cared?”

Did

did you just

DOES THAT MEAN

OH MY GOD WHAT. SO!!!! Lark is also not straight??? OH MY GOD, SHE LIVED WITH ROSETHORN AND THEY WERE VERY CLOSE AND WHAT THE FUCK WHAT THE FUCK.

“Well, that explains more than it doesn’t,” Briar remarked.

I AM YOU, BRIAR MOSS. I AM YOU. Look, I need to know so much more. I know I’m probably not going to get it for a while, but I need to know their story. WHERE IS IT. WHAT DID I MISS. Do I need to re-read all the Circle books now??? HOW MANY CLUES JUST PASSED ME BY???

Anyway, LOVE. I am so enamored that the first major romance in the Emelan books is between two women, and one of them is my favorite character. I CAN’T DO THIS. But it’s also interesting to me that Daja’s romance is what causes the other three characters to finally open up about the fact that all of them are being courted by Berenene in some way. Sandry had realized that somewhat, but when they openly talk about it? It’s uncomfortable. Sandry had been so deadset on going home that she hadn’t considered that Berenene would target her friends in order to get her to stay. It’s a distressing thought! Which is why this moment was so wonderful:

Suddenly she felt the touch of Tris within her magic. Calm down, she said. Sandry could feel that Briar heard Tris as well, though his bond to Sandry herself was still closed. We four will always be one, whether we live together in Emelan or not, Tris told them both. You ought to have more faith.

AHHHHHH, IT CONTINUES TO GET BETTER.

Theft

Except now I know why it’s progressed to that point. After visiting with Zhegorz and learning how his training has gone, Sandry readies herself and then heads out with Fin to the Lairanese ambassador’s party. There’s that moment during her conversation with Zhegorz where he mentions that he saw sailors preparing “for a midnight getaway,” and I actually called. Hell, early on, I figured that someone would try to kidnap Sandry for a marriage contact once those assholes tried it.

That doesn’t make this entire sequence any less effective or terrifying. It’s awful. I’d completely forgotten about Sandry’s fear of the dark, and it was agonizing to read about her trapped in… a chest? A box? I don’t even know what she’s trapped in, except that it’s large enough for her to move about inside of it and to kick out within it. Her stitch power is severely limited – if not entirely blocked – by the signs and sigils cast within the box, and the entire thing leaves her in pitch darkness.

It was frightening how quickly my own mind leapt back to Sandry’s Book and that opening scene of hers. I knew instantly that she’d have a panic attack. But what gets her out of it? How does she find strength while living out her worst nightmare? Initially, that’s purely through rage, especially when Fin openly toys with her about what he’s done and what he plans to do with her. After drugging her and securing her in a mage-proof box, he plans to take her to a safe house that’s also spelled to block her magic and force her to sign a contract. All so she can be his “obedient” wife. The man is dripping with misogyny, and he knows that he can get away with it, too. I mean, he also underestimates Sandry, but we’ll get to that in a second. What I mean by this is that the culture within Namorn – and possibly the Empress’s plans – accepts what he does here. He’s got the support of the law, and it doesn’t matter how inhumane and violent he is. As long as he gets Sandry to sign that contract, she is his property.

But Fin only remains nearby for a few minutes before he’s off to fool everyone into thinking he had nothing to do with Sandry’s disappearance. So how does Sandry persevere? She thinks of her foster family. She thinks of all the horrible things that Rosethorn and Briar and Evvy have gone through and survived. She thinks of what Daja did to save other people and survived. She reminds herself that Gudruny “held on for ten years” and that “Zhegorz survived for fifty.” She uses this to calm herself, bring out the thread circle she had not used in years, and reach out to her siblings. After two failures – Daja is closed off because of Rizu, and Tris is literally playing with lightning – she reaches Briar for the first time in ages.

The circle is getting closer and closer to being reforged. Granted, it’s through UTTER TERROR, but Briar and Tris both use their mind-speech to communicate here. All we know is that Sandry is somewhere in the palace, so she’s not far. It appears Briar may have found the exact room she’s in, but I don’t know. CLIFFHANGER. UNFAIR. Oh god, I have to go read more RIGHT NOW.

Mark Links Stuff

I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S. this summer and fall Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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