Mark Reads ‘The Will of the Empress’: Chapter 11

In the eleventh chapter of The Will of the Empress, Berenene surprises Landreg Castle with a visit, and Sandry learns just how complicated her life will be. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Will of the Empress.

You know, it’s like with each new chapter, Tamora Pierce comes up with a way to complicate this further, assuring that I’ll feel more and more tension. This is a slow-burn thriller that is going to lead to some inevitable showdown between the Circle of Friendship and Berenene, right? Like, that’s where this is going? I’m scared. SCARED.

Ishabel

It’s finally crystal clear to me: Empress Berenene is so used to getting her way by offering fame, power, and money that she cannot fathom someone not being interested in those things. As I was reading the opening section of this chapter, it struck me that she fundamentally did not understand what appeals to Sandry. She’s not lacking in astuteness or cunning, so how could Berenene miss the mark so quickly?

“Staying abed while Sandry goes riding with a tiny escort – really! I don’t care if they had caught pneumonia, the girl will never be convinced of their devotion if they are not constantly at her side. They would have looked so brave, shaking their swords at fer Holm.”

Well, not to Sandry. Sandry has no interest in masculine displays of courage at all. Her disinterest in Jak and Fin has nothing to do with their devotion. Hell, as we’ll see later in the chapter, their devotion is precisely what irritates her! She also isn’t eager for imperial entertainment, nor is she uninterested in joining with her foster-siblings. Berenene doesn’t know that two of the connections have been reformed, which… fair enough, how would you know that? Still, the woman both underestimates these people and barges on, certain that her will is all that she needs. It’s Ishabel who knows that she cannot think lowly of the four foster-siblings. She takes their prodigies seriously. Which is good because they should be respected! It’s also bad because WHAT IF ISHABEL DOES WHATEVER BERENENE WANTS TO TAKE THEM DOWN. Which will probably happen. SIGH.

Sandry

Oh lord, I’m so pleased that Sandry and Daja are casually using the magical connection between one another to communicate again. IT’S SO LOVELY. It’s also necessary at this point. As the foster siblings get further and further into this court’s culture, they’re realizing that they can’t speak openly and honestly as they’re used to. So I’m guessing that through sheer desperation, they’re going to start using their connection more often, like how Daja notifies Sandry of Berenene’s arrival here. With so much deception and entendre and layered meanings and such, they’re going to need to find a way to speak to one another.

Regardless, Sandry’s sections of this chapter highlight the anxiety and stress she’s currently under. As I said at the beginning of this, it’s like some new wrinkle of awfulness is added to this predicament constantly. Here? There are numerous of them! There’s Sandry’s conversation with Gudruny, where Gudruny points out that Berenene is “one of those who cannot believe that not everyone has her strength of mind.” Then, there’s everything Sandry learns from Shan. It’s unfortunate that they can never be anything more than friends because they get along so well. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with friendship! Platonic, non-romantic friendship is A FORCE FOR ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THE WORLD.

Still, this book is about Berenene’s attempts to control Sandry. Early in this chapter, we hear her refer to Sandry as her property, and from what we can gleam from Shan’s words, it’s obvious that Jak and Fin were sent after Sandry because the empress could still control them even after a marriage. I have no problem viewing Berenene as this book’s antagonist anymore because… well, shit! She’s so disturbing. The way she views people is so… inhuman! That’s the best word I can come up with. They’re all pawns to better herself and her wealth and power. That means that any men sent after Sandry are merely pawns of the empress anyway. There’s no love or romance in these prospects; just the promise of a life of courtly servitude to a woman who does not respect personal autonomy.

Daja

Oh my god, THIS IS SO AGONIZING. It’s not infuriating, though, because Daja’s growing attraction to Rizu isn’t a tease. It’s real. It’s happening. IT’S EVERYTHING. I love so much how this is described, though. Daja’s attraction is like a burst of electricity through her body. It’s a physical thing, one she can’t ignore. But she’s also not entirely understanding what’s happening to her. At one point, she even wonders if she’s “coming down with some sickness” because she hasn’t come to terms with her sexuality. I don’t feel like Pierce is leading to a bait-and-switch, though; this feels genuine. AND I CAN’T WAIT FOR IT TO FURTHER DEVELOP.

Tris / Briar / Zhegorz

Look, I’m taking it as a personal inspiration to be able to read a book where an author deftly switches between up to six different perspectives in a single narrative. It’s so smooth! I’m just thankful that while this might be a Sandry book, it’s still heavy on the other three foster-siblings and their stories. Here, Tris opens up her connection to Briar, if briefly, because of books. BOOKS. I’m not emotional, you’re emotional. It’s interesting to me to see who reaches out to who first. Sandry and Daja were able to open themselves up first, which makes sense, given how close they always were. Tris and Briar’s connection is timeless because Tris taught him a skill he’ll always cherish, you know?

Anyway, I’m hoping that maybe Tris and Briar’s newly forged connected, even if it was a very small, brief thing, will help them deal with Zhegorz. It’s so sad to know that he was abandoned and ignored for over thirty years; that’s a lot of damage to undo. And somehow, Tris and Briar have to help him work through this while also dealing with all their imperial duties. How? What if Berenene discovers what Zhegorz is able to do and takes him away from them? I know that’s one of Zhegorz’s fears, but it’s not all that unreasonable. Perhaps Briar’s flirtations will keep Berenene away. I don’t, I am totally grasping at straws here, y’all. I DON’T KNOW HOW THEY’RE GOING TO PULL THIS OFF.

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

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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.
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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