Mark Reads ‘The Will of the Empress’: Chapter 9

In the ninth chapter of The Will of the Empress, Sandry makes her first noble decree, gets closer to Daja, and visits a new part of her lands. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Will of the Empress.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of abuse.

Oh, so much to discuss! Let’s get to it.

Halmar and Gudruny

I didn’t expect Pierce to deal with this so quickly, but HERE WE ARE. Everyone in the Landreg Castle is woken up by the unholy screaming of Halmar, Gudruny’s husband, who doesn’t really think through his confrontation here. Waking up an entire noble house early in the morning? Oh, sir, you may want to approach this again. In a different way. By NOT KIDNAPPING A WOMAN AND FORCING INTO A MARRIAGE AND THEN ABUSING HER AND HER CHILDREN FOR YEARS.

Seriously, fuck Halmar. I was so pleased by his treatment here, especially since I was so worried that we’d get a bad ending to this. I initially expected this to be part of a longer plot thread, and then when I realized it was not, I expected the worst. I hadn’t even remembered that Sandry was able to give Gudruny her freedom, according to the law, so I defaulted to the most cynical outcome. I thought that Ambros would stop Sandry and reveal some other awful custom that would mean Gudruny had to stay with her abusive husband. Instead, I get Ambros threatening to have Halmar flogged for being so openly disrespectful. YES. Y E S.

There’s a lot of compassion in what Sandry and Daja do for Gudruny, though, and I think that’s important. I was shocked by Sandry’s offer to make Gudruny a maid and house her children, too. It does solve two problems at once, since Sandry won’t seem like she’s shirking the culture she belongs to, and she can get Gudruny out of a toxic situation. But I was most impressed by Daja’s role here, especially since I did not expect her to interact with Gudruny at all. I love Daja’s quiet compassion, and it’s on display beautifully here. Even though she’s curt when she talks about the basics of interaction with Sandry and the other mages, it’s done in a way that’s respectful. When she asks Gudruny about her (now ex-) husband, it’s with a short, succinct question, not a long, drawn-out affair. She gives Gudruny the chance to say as much as she wants, and I adore that. It’s through this that we learn just how horrific Halmar was to her, so it makes me even happier to know that Sandry took her away from that.

Rejoined

I CAN’T DEAL WITH THIS.

Daja came over and kissed her cheek. “Ah. You did it just to silence the servants,” she said. Inside, through her magic, she added, But you still have a heart bigger than all Emelan.

Sandry smiled, her lips trembling. If this morning’s work brought one of my sisters back into my heart, then this whole trip was worth it, she replied through their now open magical connection.

NO, I’M NOT EMOTIONAL. YOU’RE EMOTIONAL.

Sandry’s Duty

I feel like with each new chapter, I get a better understanding of how intimidating Empress Berenene is and how manipulative she’s been. There’s a moment in the first half of chapter nine where Sandry wonders aloud in front of Daja how she could ever return home to Emelan without affronting those who rely on the success of her lands. Even if you remove Berenene’s influence – which I realize is not something you can divorce from this problem – Sandry would still have a complicated problem to deal with. Gudruny’s presence is evidence of that, especially since Sandry’s mother flat-out ignored the woman’s pleas twice. In short? Sandry doesn’t want to be that kind of noble. She doesn’t want to ignore the needs of the people living on her lands or to view them as numbers on a tax record.

Unfortunately, Ambros, despite being a lovely and caring steward, has had to view the problems of the Landreg estates in this manner. Tris is the one to figure out that Ambros’s records clearly show that Empress Berenene used royal taxation as leverage to strain Ambros so much that he’d have to ask Sandry to come home. Well, these are Landregs we’re talking about, the family who breeds mules and develops temperaments much like the animals, too. Ealaga confirms this for Tris and Sandry, noting that her husband was too prideful to tell Sandry the truth. Which I get! He never really knew Sandry well enough to feel comfortable approaching her with the issue.

And lo and behold: once Sandry notified the empress that she was heading north, the taxes were lifted. Great. We now know just how Berenene plans to keep Sandry around, and it’s a doozy. How the hell could Sandry go home, knowing that taxes would be raised on her lands indefinitely until Berenene got what she wanted? It’s basically a royal temper tantrum, if you ask me, and Berenene is a bully for enacting it.

At least the visit to Pofkim village is not as disastrous as I thought it would be. It’s sad, of course, to know that Ambros could not afford to give these people the help they needed after flooding nearly wiped their village away. But that’s the economic and political reality of this world. Ambros had to balance many interests at once, and Berenene’s cruel taxation was her way of punishing Sandry by punishing everyone underneath her. It’s sort of like those teachers who would discipline an entire class for what one person did, except imagine if the rest of the class got a worse punishment than the offender. In her own way, though, Sandry is fighting back against this. She offers to sell all of her emeralds to pay for repairs at Pofkim, which is a sign that she’s still willing to eschew the normal traditions of a noble. She cares – perhaps more than anyone in Emelan – and it’s just so wonderful to watch her get to work.

Tris

NO.

“You show them you care about them by looking after their welfare,” she heard Tris reply. “Do you believe her when she says put whatever funds you need into help for your tenants? Because she means it. She won’t ask you later what you’ve done with her emeralds. When she gives her word, you may trust it.”

Whenever she makes me truly cross, I have to remember she says things like this, thought Sandry as she acknowledged Maghen’s curtsy. I still wish she hadn’t closed herself off from me, but I’m so glad she came!

I’M NOT CRYING. YOU ARE. TOTALLY NOT EMOTIONAL.

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

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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