Mark Reads ‘The Will of the Empress’- Chapter 20

In the twentieth and final chapter of The Will of the Empress, the circle is reforged. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to finish The Will of the Empress.

Everything hurts all the time, but at least it’s hurting because GOOD THINGS ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

The Showdown

When I started The Will of the Empress, I began to formulate an idea of how the final confrontation would happen. As you recall, I felt it was inevitable that the foster-siblings would all face off with Berenene at some point near the end of the novel. The title of the book basically confirmed that for me; this story was about the threat of the empress’s power. Yet here, in the final big fight of the book, Empress Berenene is nowhere to be found. Her first-in-command, Ishabel Ladyhammer, talks a big game, but is she any competition to these four young mages? In the end, there’s not a drop of blood shed. There’s no massive fight or violent confrontation. If you look at this end from a distance, Briar, Daja, and Sandry just walk through the barrier that had held for decades, maybe even centuries.

Of course, there is conflict here, and this simplifies the confrontation to make it sound insignificant. I think the point of this is to highlight the beauty of the circle reforged. Through this horrible, traumatic experience, these four friends realized that they were always a family. Through the bond that they made under the earth years earlier, they found a power that no one could take from them, and this power allowed them to defy an empress who cares not for such things. Berenene has no real family and she never will. Granted, she has no interest in one, but her will was still destroyed by the will of the circle of friendship.

You don’t fuck with the circle of friendship.

And now the four of them all have physical reminders of what they’ve done at the border between Olart and Namorn. I have a prediction of that, which I’ll save for the next post, but I’M ALREADY TOO EMOTIONAL ABOUT THIS. There’s a lot more that happens later that I’ll get to, but I did want to talk about Ishabel’s last scene. If anything, I think Pierce gave her a sad ending. Stripped of a great deal of her power, she’ll have to slink back to Berenene to report that her failure is a whole lot worse than what she anticipated. No wall for miles, y’all! I didn’t need closure for this character either, and I’m glad that we just have to imagine the life that she and all the rest of Berenene’s court will have. What Pierce focuses on after this is far more important to me.

The Right Thing

So what happens in the wake of this victory? Obviously, everyone wants to go home and as soon as possible, which I don’t blame them. I WOULD, TOO. But Tris (newly reunited with her foster-siblings), Briar, and Daja are not too quick to head home because they’re certain that Tris has forgot one important detail. Initially, I was totally bewildered by this, but that line from Briar about Sandry being “rich” clued me in to their concern. I appreciated that Pierce wouldn’t ignore the fact that the group’s escape from Namorn left one huge plot unresolved. I’m sure all these people felt relieved to make it to Olart, but there was one person who couldn’t go along with them. What was Ambros supposed to do?

I figured that Sandry’s preparations were good enough, but Sandry’s friends point out that it’s only a matter of time before Berenene taxes the Landreg land into poverty. She’s petty enough to do exactly that until Sandry came back to Namorn, thus starting the whole shitshow over again. There’s one easy solution to it all, though, but it’s a painful one, at least for someone like Sandry. She grew up in this culture, and she’s always considered herself as part of the nobility. But staying a noble would certainly give Ambros, his family, and the Landreg estates nothing but misery and unhappiness until Sandry did what Empress Berenene wanted.

So, in a bold but necessary move, Sandry makes Ambros a count. Just like that, he’s the sole heir of the Landreg estates. It’s a shocker, but it’s a sweet one, though not as sweet as Zhegorz’s decision. I’m really, really happy with his end here because he was always such an unexpected character. His journey has been a difficult one, but this is what he always wanted. He wanted to have his own life, and he wanted to feel useful. Ambros is just the kind of employer for him to have, and I can’t imagine a more useful position for Zhegorz.


The Circle Reforged

Actually, I am. God, the circle of friendship will always ruin me, but the end of this book is so symbolically important that I nearly lost it again. When Sandry responds to her friends summoning her through their magical connection, she arrives in a magical manifestation of Discipline House. The whole thing: the sounds, the smells, and her best friends. There, the four of them finally admit why they closed themselves off to one another. Partially out of shame, partially out of fear, they couldn’t tell the truth about what they’d done or who they’d become. And while they each understand this, they all realize how foolish they’d been. As Briar says:

“Fighting off those pirates didn’t make us hate each other. We knew why we did it. Not being able to forgive ourselves isn’t the same as understanding each other. We’re a lot easier on each other than we are on ourselves.”

Thus, Discipline will always come to represent that kind of love. Each of these four characters has done shit that might make them unpopular in the rest of the world. They might have done unimaginable things in order to do what was right. They might not ever be okay with those actions, either. But they support one another because they’re a family, they love each other, and they deserve each other.

It was always about them.

The original text contains use of the words “crazy” and “madness.”

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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