Genre: epic Fantasy
Cover: ugly, my Dutch book has a nicer cover.
Mara of the Acoma, Ruling Lady of her house, has established herself as a force within the Empire and a deft player of the Game of the Council, the politics of the empire. When she finds a nobleman among a band of slaves from Midkemia, she soon involves him too in her political struggles.
After defeating Jingu of the Minwanabi in his own home during a party for the Warlord, causing him to commit suicide for breaking his honor, the blood feud between the Acoma and Minwanabi is continued with his son, Desio. Desio is very afraid of Mara, and what she will do to him now, until his cousin Tasaio gets back from the war on Midkemia, and helps him plot their revenge. Swearing a bloody oath to Turakama, the Red God, to destroy the Acoma, on penalty of death for the entire Minwanabi clan, means there is no peaceful way out of this feud anymore. One of the families will cease to exist completely.
In the mean time, Mara is busy with building her financial reserves, she needs more slaves to make land for new Nidra beasts. She decides to buy some cheap Midkemian slaves, as they are strong and will be able to get the work done. But those outworlders are very difficult to work with. They don’t accept their new positions of slaves, they think they are prisoners of war, they want to escape back home. This is of course not possible at all, and they get punished severely for not obeying. Mara doesn’t understand it all, but some of their strange ideas and believes find a way to her heart, as does Kevin himself, their leader. He never told anyone that he is a minor nobleman and an officer in the army, as he would have been killed on the spot.
The Minwanabi plot to rob Mara from her military top men, and send her off to Dustari to fight the desert people, and join the Lord of the Xacatecas in excile there. They don’t know that the Minwanabi have bought the desert people to fight them, and that they are actively helping them in the hopes of destroying both houses. But thanks to Kevin and his military knowledge, and his unique use of the choy-ja warriors Mara has, they save the day, and the Xacatecas, and win the war. But still, it took them years, years that Mara has been separated from her beloved son and her house. It will take some time to rebuild their business enterprises.
But then their Emperor, their spiritual leader, starts taking the worldly leadership in his own hands as well, to the anger of the Ruling Council of Lords and Ladies. And when his peace treaty with Midkemia goes horribly wrong, it seems doomed from the start. A lot of the most Important Lords of the Empire and their first born sons have died on Midkemia, including Desio of the Minwanabi. But Mara will do whatever she can to keep the Minwanabi, and their new Lord Tasaio, from the thrown of the War Lord. She will have to deal in the best interest of the Empire … but will it cost her her own life and that of her son and House?
I so love this second book in the series. I can understand Mara’s attraction to Kevin, and how dangerous his way of thinking is to a society so strongly build on tradition and the right of the strongest. Mara has become a great player of the Big Game, but she will never neglect her people for monetary gain. Even though a life is not worth much to the Tsurani, where everyone is born in a certain caste, and hopes to gain enough honor to be reborn as a higher caste in their next life.
I love the adventure, and the descriptions of this strange world and its customs. For me, it has a bit of a Japanese feeling this culture, perhaps because of the houses, the clothes. I like it.
© 2013 Reviews by Aurian