Mark Reads ‘The Will of the Empress’- Chapter 19

In the nineteenth chapter of The Will of the Empress, Briar, Daja, and Sandry fight against their captors. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Will of the Empress.

Trigger Warning: For misogyny, abuse, drugging

I love it when people misjudge and underestimate the Circle of Friendship, only to be shown why that was such a poor thing to do. It happens all the time, and I am entertained every time it happens. Shall we discuss the absolute humiliation of Quenaill and Shan?


You know, in another world, Quenaill might not be so bad of a person, but his jealousy and arrogance are too much for me. He’s spent a great deal of this book resenting everyone else for having more of the empress’s affection than he does. Even if he sympathizes with what Sandry’s been through, he chooses his own self-importance over the livelihood of someone else. So when he traps Daja and Briar in his complicated spell net, we get to see that part of him come out. He taunts the two mages, babbles on about the nature of great magics, and compliments himself on how great his spells are. Then we get this line:

“You really should consider employment with Berenene. She takes good care of her people. I’ll even teach you some tricks once Shan and Sandry are wed. Not this one, of course. But you’ll see I’m a decent enough fellow after that.”

Yes, of course, that’s when they’ll realize you’re a good person! After Sandry’s been kidnapped, forcibly wed, no one is allowed to go home, and they all reluctantly agree to stay somewhere they don’t want to be! That’s absolutely when they’ll come to understand how moral and awesome you are.

Good lord. So no, I feel no sympathy for this man when Daja and Briar successfully use their own ambient magic to break out of Quen’s trap and then trap him in a massive cage of wire and thorns. It’s symbolic of the way the foster-siblings use their magic because it’s deliberately unique. Who else could combine forge magic and plant magic like this? But that’s always been the point with these characters. They’re joined together in ways that most people haven’t seen before, which is why they’re constantly underestimated by those around them. And what happens when people do that?

They’re stripped naked of their power and their pride.


Okay, in Sandry’s case, sometimes people are literally stripped naked, but I loved that her attack on Shan and his people was the opposite: their clothes are turned against them as Sandry urges thread to cocoon the entire party. Like Quenaill, I couldn’t be bothered to feel even a little bit bad about what happened to Shan. The dude is vile. Seriously, look at this bullshit:

“With the potions I have for her to drink, and the spell patterns he gave me, she won’t be able to lift a finger against me once we’re inside.” Lips kissed the back of her neck, making Sandry’s skin crawl. Shan added, “She’ll get accustomed. She was half in love with me before some idiot gossiped to her. I just have to convince her that Her Imperial Majesty was a relationship of convenience, while she is my own true love. Trust me, you tell a woman things like that, and she’s putty in your hands.”

OH MY GOD, YOU ARE THE WORST, AND I AM SO HAPPY THAT YOU ARE COMPLETELY HUMILIATED BY SANDRY. Once Quen’s powers die, Sandry makes an easy task out of disabling the last of the charms and attacking all seven members of Shan’s party. And while the cocooning is beautifully poetic, it’s Sandry’s last words to Shan that are my absolute favorite:

She urged the gelding over to Shan, whose face was purple with rage and helplessness. “Now you know,” she said hotly. “When I say I don’t like you, it really means I don’t like you!”

A beautiful message to all people who don’t respect rejections and the boundaries set by them. Bless you, Sandry.

The Pride of the Empress

I said this in the video below, but I’m so fascinated by the relationship between Ishabel and Berenene. Because there’s nothing romantic between them, they’ve got a dynamic that’s drastically different than anyone else in this book. There is a sense of respect and loyalty, but at the same time, Ishabel is always aware of the immense power that Berenene has. You can see that here when Ishabel tries to address an uncomfortable subject with her empress:

What if the magical walls fail?

It’s a delicate thing to discuss because Ishabel can’t insult Berenene, but she also has to plan for every outcome. If anything, Ishabel is still the sole character here who refuses to misjudge the amount of power these four foster-siblings have. So how does she do this without turning the empress against her? She devises a method that more or less gives Berenene plausible deniability, though I wonder if that means Ishabel is going to take the fall for everything by the end of The Will of the Empress, either on purpose or because she failed to stop the young mages. Ishabel is quite certain that if she fails, Berenene can blame it all on her senior mage’s age and the poorly updated walls. But this is Berenene we’re talking about. In a moment, she could turn against anyone who makes her look weak, even in subtle ways.

Basically, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ishabel doesn’t survive the book.


As I’ve said a few times, I’m glad that the group is openly apologetic to Zhegorz for discounting him due to his disability. That needed to happen, honestly, because it shows that they understand that their behavior was unacceptable. I also respect that Sandry asks Zhegorz and Gudruny to go ahead of them and sneak across the border. Truthfully, this fight is not theirs, and they don’t deserve to be caught in the crossfire. They already have, and it’s time for them to live their own lives. I love that idea, too, especially for Zhegorz. That’s what he’s moving towards anyway, isn’t it? Independence. That’s something I want for him so badly.

Regardless, I really thought that this chapter would be the big confrontation, and it wasn’t, so now I get to feel terrified about the future all over again. GREAT. GREAT.

The original text contains use of the word “crazy.”

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at Borderlands Books, Book Riot Live, and Windycon this 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 Kings, season 1 of Sense8, season 1 of Agent Carter, seasons 1 & 2 of The 100, Death Note, and Neon Genesis Evangelion. 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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