Daughter of the Empire

Posted by : atcampbell | On : February 18, 2003

Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

This discussion was originally scheduled for February 4, but on that date two members of the Reading Group, including the one who’d recommended this book, were in the hospital. Thus we rescheduled the meeting, and both of the patients were healthy enough to attend.

Eleven people attended the meeting at Jeff and Judy’s house. All of us had started the book, and nine finished it. Five at the meeting had read other books by Feist or Wurts.

Daughter of the Empire is set in a low-tech world with a male-dominated society. The title character is a young woman, Mara, who inherits control of her once-powerful family when her father dies without a male heir. She quickly sets out to rebuild and grow her family’s wealth and political influence to great levels.

We found much to like about the book. Everyone commented on the smooth and professional writing style. The story was well told and the involving plot kept us turning the pages quickly. Many of us felt the society of this book was similar to feudal Japan, and we felt the experience of reading it was most like reading James Clavell’s Shogun.

About half of the group enjoyed the story a great deal. This group liked reading about the untrained political insider outsmarting her older and more experienced competition. They also liked the detailed social structure of the world and the political intrigue of the plot. They felt that Mara was a political genius. They liked what this book set out to do, and were pleased by how well the authors pulled it off.

Others at the meeting were not terribly interested in politics, so this book had less to offer them. This group also complained that the protagonist was so single-minded in her ambitions that she had less personality than the Terminator. We weren’t sure whether Mara would eventually become a benevolent leader or a dictator, so we had a hard time rooting for her. One person said the political intrigue in this book paled compared to what he’d been experiencing at his job recently.

One issue that divided us was whether this book was a mainstream novel or a fantasy. To several people this was obviously a fantasy novel with lots of fantastic elements. All of these people had read Feist’s Riftwar books, which are set in the same universe as Daughter of the Empire. Those who hadn’t read the Feist books generally felt that Daughter of the Empire read like an alternate history or mainstream novel, belonging on the same shelf as James Clavell’s work.

Overall we thought Daughter of the Empire was a well-crafted work, and we would recommend it to lovers of political fiction. Several people in our group had enjoyed it so much that they’d already started reading the other books in the series, Servant of the Empire and Mistress of the Empire. After the meeting, we had a nice dinner at Kerbey Lane CafĂ©.

— A. T. Campbell, III