Mark Reads ‘The Will of the Empress’: Chapter 7

In the seventh chapter of The Will of the Empress, Sandry makes arrangements to head to her lands, and Daja is reunited with an acquaintance from Kugisko. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Will of the Empress.

Trigger Warning: For mental illness, ableism, trauma/PTSD, homelessness, gore.

I’m so in love with this book already. LET’S DO THIS.

Courtiers

Well, remember when I just wrote about charmed I was by everything and I was worried about when this book would show me the side of Berenene that everyone was so afraid of? WELL, WELCOME TO CHAPTER SEVEN. The most ridiculous thing about this is that she barely does anything at all, and yet? I’m terrified. This whole social arrangement is a nightmare, and it’s unlike anything Sandry’s ever had to deal with. FOR EXAMPLE:

For a very long moment no one spoke or moved. They’re afraid, Sandry realized, listening for clues from the people around her. They’re afraid of Berenene when she loses her temper. I’d better keep that in mind. She’s all sweetness now, but that’s not how she’s remained the sole ruler of Namorn for twenty-odd years.

Now I’m worried about the empress. How could I not be? This woman is perfectly aware of how to use her court to her advantage. Like when she tells Sandry to bring along four courtiers to her lands. As Sandry puts it, there’s no easy way she could tell the woman no without upsetting Berenene beyond repair. So she agrees to let Jak, Fin, Rizu, and Caidlene accompany her. (I’m very excited about Rizu, but that’s no surprise.) I think that’ll provide a lot of entertainment, and I’m a sucker for ensemble casts, but I’m still nervous. When will Sandry meet the will of the empress?

Zhegorz

I’m genuinely surprised, y’all.

I think Pierce does an okay job with mental illness, though it’s clear in both Emelan and Namorn, mental illness is viewed as the “Other.” Both societies have some system to take care of these people, but they’re not exactly caring facilities, nor is there a system sense of welfare extended to them. The fact that Zhegorz has survived as he has is evidence that mental health is not a priority within these places. Even so, we can see some of the prejudice and bias against people with mental illness within the character’s narration and their actions. Granted, Zhegorz frightened everyone when he lunged out at the group, shouting something that sounded like nonsense, but what about after that? Shan is shocked that Daja even knows someone like Zhegorz. The maids are horrified by his presence.

At the very least, both Daja and Tris are protective of Zhegorz, as well as willing to listen to him and try to understand what he’s saying. I appreciated that sympathy, just as I appreciated Daja’s kindness in getting him food and a bath. Those things matter, especially when you’re homeless and desperate for shelter and a meal. But what hit me the hardest – and what I found to be the most significant part of this story – was the fact that Daja and Tris, through kindness and understanding, were able to determine that Zhegorz has the same kind of wind scrying magic that Tris has. This man had gone thirty-seven years with a rare ambient magic, and instead of getting support and help for it, he’d been sent from one institution to another. It’s one of the saddest things I can imagine. Because he spoke differently, because he was excitable, because he wasn’t easy to categorize, this society utterly failed him. It was much easier for people to just write him off as “mad” instead of giving him any help at all.

I’m happy that someone has finally taken a genuine interest in him, and I hope it’s not too late.

Sandry

So, we’ve got some bickering between the foster-siblings here – including one nasty little fight – but this honestly feels like the first time they might all make it. Unified under their journey to Sandry’s land, they might actually get along better. Now, they’ve still got some kinks to work out, and Sandry messes up pretty spectacularly here when she doesn’t inform her friends about the early morning trip to her lands until she announces it to Berenene. It’s a careless moment, certainly not the worst imaginable, but it’s easy for Tris and Briar to pick on Sandry for it. They just completed an exhausting trip to the city, and now they’re about to begin another one?

But it’s great that Sandry recognizes she’s goofed here and then apologizes, admitting that her friends were right. It’s a start. Isn’t all of this, though? They’re starting anew, despite that they’ve been friends for years.

Briar

So, as far as I can put together from the tiny glimpses we’ve gotten, Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy were caught up in some sort of war in Yanjing, one that was so brutal and bloody that… well, it’s tough to describe. One of the common motifs we see in Briar’s dreams or triggers is of him climbing through or over piles of dead bodies. Whatever the Yanjing emperor did, it was terrible enough to kill hundreds of people at once. Understandably, it was also a traumatic event for Briar, one that continues to haunt him daily, so much so that we learn that he can no longer sleep alone. His promiscuity is linked to that, only in the sense that he mostly wants someone in the same bed as him.

Here’s my guess, though. Since Tris discovered in this chapter what happened to Daja in Kugisko, we’ll learn what happened to Briar. But it’ll be through Zhegorz, since he can hear “secrets” on the wind.

I’M TRYING, OKAY.

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

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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