Review: Empire's Daughter by Marian L Thorpe

Empire’s Daughter by Marian L Thorpe

Timy reviews Empire’s Daughter, the first book in Marian L Thorpe‘s Empire’s Legacy series.

A digital copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book
Series: Empire’s Legacy #1Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Date of Publishing: February 18, 2015Trigger Warnings: death, blood, violence
Page count: 347Publisher: Arboretum Press
Possible The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge prompts:
  • Justice
  • Bulletproof Skin
  • I’m Still Here
  • Demons
  • Have a Little Faith
  • Misfits
  • Free Your Mind
  • Middle Fingers
  • Vészhelyzet (Emergency)
  • I’ll Be There
  • Centuries
Book Blurb
Empire's Daughter by Marian L. Thorpe

Lena’s world is about to change forever. Harried from north and south by two different enemies, both wanting this last remnant of a greater Empire’s land, and with invasion imminent, the military leaders see no choice but to ask the unthinkable: that women learn to fight.
In accepting the challenge, Lena is separated from her lover, who chooses banishment rather than break with generations of tradition. Promoted to leadership, drawn into the intrigues of power, Lena must make difficult choices, for herself, for her village, and for her country: a young woman at the heart of the violence and diplomacy that will begin her epic journey to save her land. Evoking Europe after the decline of Rome, the imagined world of Empire’s Daughter and its sequels is brought to vivid, believable life by the precise and powerful writing of Marian L Thorpe.

Song of the Book

First I was considering Song of Women by The HU feat. Lzzy Hale, but that went even less with the overall mood of the book, than Dear Daughter by Halestorm does. Interestingly, I never considered anyone else but Lzzy to give a voice to Empire’s Daughter.

Review

I’ve been aware of the Empire’s Legacy series by Marian L Thorpe for a while now. Partly because of some of my friends who are huge fans of the author and partly through other channels. But I never could make up my mind about whether Empire’s Daughter would be up my alley or not. On one hand, I love historical fiction – I have a degree in History for a reason, you know, but on the other, I’m not really interested in books with a lot of military action and battles and tactics, and what have you. Gimme political games over military stuff anytime. When I opened my requests for a short while and Marian L Thorpe got in touch, I thought why not? Let’s give it a chance and see where I end up with it.

But even after finishing it just in a couple of days, I still have no idea where I’m standing with the Empire’s Daughter. I don’t think I liked it, but at the same time, I can see what Thorpe was doing here and why many readers loved it. It tells the story of an Empire that needs to be changing after rigid rules were made about 200+ years ago as new challenges are rising.

It gives us an interesting insight into a society where men and women have their own divided worlds, rules, and roles and how these interact with each other, how even the smallest changes affect them, and what reactions are given by the people. Where same-sex relationships are normal, and the two worlds only meet twice a year when it’s time for the Festival where they can have liaisons in order to have children. And even then, women have a free choice whether they want to bear children or not, knowing that every boy has to be taken away at the age of 7 to become a soldier.

It’s a story told from the POV of Lena, a young woman by their standards, even if she is only 17. She lives through these changes, even encourages some, or at least has a say in them all the while she also learns that every decision has consequences. I sometimes struggled to remember she was actually 17, as she acted above her age, but then it’s easy to forget that we are judging these characters through our modern glasses, and that societal norms were very different centuries ago.

Thorpe’s writing style makes Empire’s Daughter a smooth and easy read. It’s easy to depict Tirvan (Lena’s village) and its many features, and the people living there. What I had issues with was the pacing. It was a bit too slow for my liking. I admit I grew bored at times, especially toward the halfway point. Personally, I enjoyed the last 30% or so the best, that’s where the book really got me interested, but that’s a bit too late. I wished the first 2/3rd of the book was trimmed down a bit and the ending was in the middle where things really got going. While I appreciate slow worldbuilding, here it was just super slow. This wouldn’t have been such a big problem if 1) I was invested in the characters, which I wasn’t (considering this book is pretty character-driven, that was an issue), and 2) if I enjoyed descriptions of different pieces of training and tactics and whatnot. It’s very much a case of it’s me, not the book.

My biggest complaint with Empire’s Daughter is that it’s too… clean. Sure, there is a bit of blood, a few people die “on screen”, and some heavy topics are brought up, but on the other hand, I never really got raw emotions, nor felt the realness of some situations (or most, anyway). Some things happen off-screen I think should have been in the focus – like that time one character saves another, we are told it happens, and everyone is happy, but I’d rather have read about that than how they spent a whole day making the waterfall climbable. Although, since this was written from the POV of Lena who wasn’t present, that would have been hard to pull off, but still.

Or another example is, although Lena has a partner in Maya, she eventually decides to lay with a man – we see some of that relationship building up, but we never get Lena’s feelings about her first time with a man, specifically – but then again, I might have missed the fact she already had a male partner at a Festival, although I doubt it. And most people are just really nice or understanding and welcoming and it’s just way too feel-goody for me, especially since this is a world where war is looming. And I understand that it was important to show that men in this world can be thoughtful and caring and have a soft side despite the fact they’ve been trained as soldiers since their birth. And yes, there are asshole characters – there always are – but they are few and far between and usually there to show how super nice everyone else is. It feels weird to complain about this as I like cozy reads, but I also prefer asshole characters. Not sure what that says about me…

One more thing I wanted to mention is the lack of religion – or rather, we know that there is a goddess, but faith doesn’t get an important role in this world, nor is there much talk about it. Which I find curious, because religion, myths, and legends were always at the center of most civilizations. And this is what fascinates me in any type of worldbuilding – how faith and god(s) come into play regarding the main plot or even just the characters’ everyday life.

I probably could go on with a lot more thoughts, but this already turned out to be another long review. So, in closing, I’m going to say that Empire’s Daughter is a debut novel that gives much food for thought. It’s not exactly what I expected and I might not have been the right audience, but I can see the intent behind it, and I’m curious how much Thorpe grew as an author over the years. Empire’s Daughter has a different approach to historical fiction, showing a different side of what a reader might be used to, and is not afraid to slow the space to make sure we get a clear – although maybe over-detailed – picture of what is going on. If that sounds like your jam, you most likely will have a good time getting immersed in it!

Our Judgement
They Shall Live - 3 Crowns

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