In the sixth chapter of The Will of the Empress, the foster-siblings all experience life in the Namornese court. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Will of the Empress.
I’m getting some serious Emperor Mage vibes from this book, only I find this to be a billion times more complex. I feel weird saying that I respect and admire Empress Berenene solely because I’m terrified of what she might become. This chapter references the title of the book when Shan ensures Sandry that there’s no way she’ll ever get what she wants when the empress stands in her way. LIKE, THAT IS A GENUINELY FRIGHTENING THREAT BECAUSE THIS IS A TAMORA PIERCE BOOK. I WILL NOT FOOL MYSELF.
And yet, I’m charmed. I can’t help it. I expected the worst going into this section. I expected the empress to be super creepy with Briar, and that moment never came. She’s personable with him, but her interest in his green magic is genuine. Yes, she has an ulterior motive, but is it the most evil thing we’ve seen in an Emelan book? Not by a longshot. She wants the best for her empire, and Briar Moss is the best green mage she’s ever seen, that much is certain. His scenes in the greenhouse are magical because he’s in a place where someone else cares as much about plants as he does. It’s rare outside of his interactions with Crane and Rosethorn.
Plus, it’s hard not to be drawn to Briar when you witness how plants react to him. I imagine that Berenene had never witnessed such a thing in her entire life, and here’s this young man who reveals to her that plants more or less have thoughts and feelings and memories. It’s a revelation to her, so there is some exchange of wonder in this chapter. Both people are impressed with one another. Still, I have to wonder how much of this is genuine and how much of it it’s just a plot. I suppose you could view the entire shakkan scene through that lens, could you not? Berenene takes him into that room knowing that he adores the miniature trees and will take an interest in her because of it.
At the same time, she doesn’t linger there, nor are most of her shakkan trees even present. Why is that? Wouldn’t she want to do the most to impress him? I wonder if she intentionally moved to the part of the greenhouse she worked on exclusively in order to seal the deal. That way, Briar would know she was serious about plants.
… WHAT AM I DOING. I’m at a point in my journey through these books that I have to question everything. I have to because otherwise I’ll have a repeat of… well, where do I even start? Tunstall? The wrong queen? EVERY PLOT TWIST IN THE CIRCLE OPENS? You get what I mean. I don’t want to feel comfortable, despite that everything in this chapter just feels so good.
I haven’t even addressed the scenes with Sandry, Daja, and Tris, either. Oh god, what’s going to happen when the will of the Empress meets the will of Sandry??? Sandry is so certain here that it’ll be no big deal for her to leave for Emelan in the fall, and everyone she meets – especially Shan – is certain that she’s a fool. I don’t think any of these people are exaggerating Berenene’s influence at all. Part of that’s because they’re all so charming and genuine, so I don’t see why they’d need to bend the truth at all. Perhaps Shan might be motivated by his desire to keep Sandry around, but still. Everyone else verifies that Empress Berenene runs the show, so I’m inclined to believe them.
I guess the idea of Sandry being coerced to marry is just super disturbing to me. I’ll quote her here because it’s relevant:
Here it was again, the ghost in the corner of her life, the one she had been sick of years ago. She had escaped it at Winding Circle, only to run into it again the moment she returned to noble society. She hated it. Why do people insist on seeing me as a doll dressed up in wedding clothes? she thought, furious. I’m a person with skills and friends and worth of my own beyond my fortune in lands and money. Beyond being an heiress! And to be told I’m not just a wedding doll, but one that will fold up the moment Berenene frowns at me – it’s just too much!
Sandry has had the luck to deal with nobility who were easily swayed by her own noble status. But this feels like the first formidable noble opponent, and I’m nervous, y’all. Very nervous.
Movement tickled her skin: Rizu was curiously tracing the outline of the metal on the back of her hand. It made Daja shiver. She smiled shyly at Rizu and continued…
NOW I’M ECSTATIC. OH MY GOD, IT’S HAPPENING. IT IS REALLY HAPPENING.
And then we’ve got Tris. One of the things that’s so thrilling about The Will of the Empress is that aside from Sandry, I cannot figure out what sort of story is unfolding for any of the characters. With the explosive ending to this chapter, I’m left wondering what affect this will all have on Tris’s tale within the novel. It’s so great to see her become perhaps the most powerful mage out of the foster-siblings, especially since she often struggles with feeling the most inadequate out of the bunch. Her wind scrying, while dangerous, is more controlled than ever. She’s able to sense a storm brewing on the Syth in enough time to warn and save a fleet of ships from death and destruction. Now, that sounds a lot simpler than what actually happens here, and truthfully, I’m still in awe at the complicated and powerful magics that Tris works. And she does so in a way that feels so casual, you know? She’s just pullin’ wind out of her braids and sending A TINY HURRICANE out to the lake to blow the fleet to safety, only to PULL THAT SAME HURRICANE BACK TO HER AND RETURN IT TO A BRAID. How? How?
Note that she does all of this while in front of Empress Berenene and her court. I will not be surprised when Berenene asks Tris to stay, all so she can utilize that kind of power for her own ends.
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