In the second book in the Empire’s Legacy series, The Empire and the northern people have been at war for over a year, but a truce is finally at hand. As part of this treaty, Lena, now a Guardswoman on the Wall, is asked to stand as hostage, to go north to live and learn among the people of Linrathe. But not everyone there will welcome her.
As Lena learns more of the history of both her land and the north, a new threat emerges, one that will test her loyalty to its limits, and in the end, demand a price she could not have envisioned.
|Author||eARC||249||indie||Historical Fantasy||July 16th, 2017|
‘Duty, decision, doom’
Empire’s Hostage is book #2 in the Empire’s Legacy series. Since Empire’s Daughter Book #1, Lena’s life has changed drastically as she has now pledged herself as a Guardswoman to the Emperor. In Empire’s Daughter, Lena and all the women’s villages faced the challenge of invasion and having to become soldiers to protect their homes. This, of course, was unheard of- while all the males from the villages were taken away to the Emperor’s army to protect and serve since the age of 7, the women stayed behind and took care of everything else and each other.
The story progression from book #1 to #2 feels natural and logical and I was pleased that the strong female character in the face of Lena continued to deliver. As two countries at war come to an agreement to have peace for 6 months the clause was that the countries are to exchange hostages to ensure that no raiding, killing or violence happens during the peace. Lena was willing to step in as a hostage and that decision, spurred by loyalty, takes her into unknown lands and then some… She meets kind people and not so kind, she discovers new ways of life and she learns ever more about herself…
Marian continues the series with solid consistency in the world building and with characters; and in book #2 she has added a good dose of extra political intrigue and elements which look and draw inspiration from our society and cultures. That said- as far as historical fantasy goes, Empire’s Legacy has this far felt entirely realistic. And that’s not a bad thing. At all. There are no damsels in distress- only strong, down to earth, ‘just get on with it’ kind of women.
While Lena’s development as a character didn’t have much wriggle-room (because Lena is already one kick-ass woman!), Marian used the unexpected twists and the political and cultural diversity to create overall conflicts in the plot and personal internal battles for Lena. She learned a lot- about herself and about the world that’s surrounding her.
In terms of pace Empire’s Hostage kept me engaged throughout. That moment before I could start thinking that a certain event or scene has had its glory and it was time to move on, Marian introduced new twists and directions. This is not a book of constant fantastical battles and spilling blood, though. Marian’s style is more strategic, solid and consistent.
There’s another observation I made while reading- while everything moves along at a good pace and there are plenty of twists to keep the reader engaged, there aren’t any feelings of panic or real heart-stoppers. While in some cases this could be a disappointment (when reading a thriller for example), in this case it was to make you feel everything… because as you read from Lean’s POV, you do feel- with her– that everything is under control. No matter what is thrown in Lena’s (and thus reader’s) way is just another hardship to overcome without complaint and with faith that Lena was going to excel because, as I said already, she’s just… like a role model, really. Additionally, becoming so closely attuned to Lena and everything her life is, gave me this empowered mind set!
You may not recall my review for Empire’s Daughter (link above) but in that review I was a bit confused about the relationships in this world Marian had created. To brief you- the men (all of them are in the army) visit the villages only during Harvest. Have a good time. Make babies. Go back to the army. Women, keeping everything in the villages afloat, live together. And that’s when I was thinking- well, OK, they’re partners, but like partners-partners? Or, what?
So, this answer has now fully been answered in Empire’s Hostage while also getting the box ticked for character diversity. Answer is- Yes, in some cases women just live together as platonic partners. But other times they create more intimate relationships in between them. However, that doesn’t mean it’s only F2F.. say, Lena, for example. Her relationship with a woman in Empire’s Daughter left a huge mark on her, but she also developed feelings for a male. And in Empire’s Hostage? *taps nose* There was a moment of passionate intimacy in between Lena and a surprise character (or at least I found it surprising provided where ‘they’ lived, etc and that was cool!) PLUS possibly a promise of a different kind of intimacy to come in book #3. I am just hoping that if I go by the ending of book #2- there might be some serious grumpy sparks flying in book #3! Then again, maybe I’m wrong…I will just have to wait and see 🙂
The writing in Empire’s Hostage (as was also the case with Empire’s Daughter) was without fault. Marian gives quite a lot of details BUT they’re what make the atmosphere of the book- atmosphere for setting and to better understand characters’ feelings and personalities. Author’s own natural knowledge shines through in every chapter and I truly appreciate this style. It feels earthy and very common sense.
Overall: Marian delivered a fantastic sequel. When book #1 was mostly centred around Lena’s village and nearby lands, Empire’s Hostage expands on the world building with cultures, beliefs and traditions. A rich set of characters who all have their own journey and place in the story delivered through purposeful writing style. It’s an easy 5 star read for me based on the enjoyment and quality of the book. Personally, I also really like the earthy, nature centred approach- totally my cup of tea.
I was kindly provided an ARC of Empire’s Hostage by Marian- Thank you!- and I am excited for book #3!
‘Loyalty demands a price’