40713567“We cannot shape the circumstances to fit our lives, only our lives to fit the circumstances. What defines us, as men and women, is how we respond to those circumstances.”

Exiled from the Empire as a traitor, Casyn’s words echo in Lena’s mind. Determined to find Casil, the legendary city of beauty and learning in the East, she travels into long-unknown lands. Her experiences in the first winter leave her scarred and afraid, but, resolving to heal, and supported by an unexpected love, she continues her search. A chance meeting with envoys from the Empire and Linrathe, desperately seeking help from Casil, forces her to a difficult decision.
Struggling to keep faith with her choices, facing the almost-certain destruction of her land and her people, Lena’s journey takes her to a deeper understanding of loyalty, sacrifice, and the dimensions of love.

Source Format Pages Publisher Genre Publication Date
Author (Beta Read) ebook 391 Arboretum Press Historical Fantasy July 22nd, 2018

First of all, my absolute and heartfelt many, many thanks to Marian for putting pen to paper and giving us, readers, this fantastic trilogy! I am absolutely honoured to have been on this journey from the beginning, beta reading and having the opportunity to be one of the first set of eyes to read those lines!

Where to start, where to start… OK!

I am going to start by saying that this whole series has been one of the best reading I’ve experienced. For proof, you can see my reviews for the first two books:

Empire’s Daughter (#1) ¦ Empire’s Hostage (#2)

Throughout the series the characters have gone from strength to strength and the plot progression has been nothing shy of amazing as Marian has expanded on both characters and plot with each installment!

Here’s me thoughts on Empire’s Exile (#3):

I read through 85% of the book in one sitting, and when I finished I had to get up and change my shirt. Yes, you read that right- change. my. shirt. With the familiar characters and my hopes of where the story was going to take me in book #3, I was both excited and nervous to fall back into the world that Marian has created.

My expectations and anticipation were exceeded to stratospheric levels! I was so captivated by it all that I swear I felt as if I was living through the events in the book personally, and the anxiety over situations the characters found themselves in, coupled with Marian skillfully placing apprehension and edge-of-the-seat scenes had me sweating profusely. I couldn’t read fast enough, you see. My heart was racing.

Just like the first two books, Empire’s Exile picks up on the previous events seamlessly and falls into a steady yet firm pace. I cannot reveal many details as one wouldn’t want to spoil the whole experience for you as you will surely consider checking this historical fantasy series out. What I can reveal is what the title insinuates and the blurb confirms- Lena, our main female character- is now in exile. She is facing a perilous journey into the unknown with a companion that doesn’t exactly seem to like her all that much. I was expecting sparks to be flying and boy, did the sparks fly! Lena and her companion are quite the opposites when it comes to their personalities and it created an amazing dynamic.

It is also worthy of note that this book includes same-sex relationships (both M/M and F/F), the freedom of love and making choices regarding choosing a partner, as well as demonstrating the culturally opposing side whereby the female has hardly a say in the matter…  It’s not all about love though, as the societies that Marian has created explores the other sides of a female’s worth within her setting- in some, women are naturally the leaders, in others this is unheard of. Plenty of contrast and clashing of interests.

The political intrigue, the battles, the histories, the strategies, the settings and the world- it has been a strong forward-moving force throughout the series and it didn’t let up in book #3. Marian is one of those authors who pour their vast knowledge and earthy intelligence into a story and I freaking love it to bits! The cultures, the differences in between the cultures and the imagery of the town Casil simply blew me away! A small intricate detail such as a language barrier and meanings getting lost in translations, subtle but meaningful detail about lost knowledge and wisdom being handed down by methods of varying degrees by community by country by village… No detail was left to chance in the book as even the body language and glances are communicated so intricately, the feeling of any given moment simply leaps off the pages…

I am a huge fan of a strong presence of political intrigue in this book as the whole world seemed to be on the brink. This, in turn, initiated the characters to make considerate, down to earth decisions and often be willing to make sacrifices with high-risk personal implications. This is why I like both Lena and Cillian- even though the cost of war and occupation and exile created an air of hopelessness in places, these two characters kept the hope blooming with their level-headed presence alone. The ‘can do’ attitude, the ‘we will find a way’ kind of attitude.

If you’re new to this series and didn’t check out my reviews for books 1&2, then that only means I have the chance to speak about the characters again!

Lena! If you’re looking for books with a strong female lead, then this is your series right here, 100%. Lena has been a solid constant throughout the series and it was absolutely deserving for her to experience all-consuming and respectful love in this installment. Lena has been a soldier, a survivor, a lover and it has been a privilege to witness all those sides to her character. Lena has always faced hardships with two feet firmly planted on the ground and she has done things that go against her moral code which constantly demonstrated to me her reluctance to be a mere soldier whilst without complaint still doing what is demanded of her, her duty to her country. She has had a very solid viewpoint on her relationships throughout the series but in book #3, Lena finally faces some doubt about her companion- is she enough? Is she too different? Her sexuality is also in the focus as her companions have been both females and males, and the way she approaches the normality love, no matter the sex of a partner, is one that readers looking for sexual diversity will appreciate. Overall, a wonderful female character who has completely earned my respect, loyalty and love.

Cillian: So much mystery surrounds this male character who projects calm and intelligence in abundance! I love Cillian so much! He also has gone through a remarkable character development as I learned who he really is, why he is the way he is and witnessing how he submits to feelings he had closed his heart to was one of the most enjoyable reading experiences ever. What makes Cillian stand out in this series, and in this book, is the exploration of his past, his principles and stubbornness. His passion and hunger for knowledge, his skills and personality are bound to win over anyone getting to know him.

Sorley: A character who is very enjoyable in his own right, although he has a bigger role to play than at first appears. He adds the depth and an extra side dish of anticipation. And this is where this gets interesting, while Sorley is a ‘spanner in the works’ for a certain relationship, he isn’t so by sinister means. Sorley doesn’t have a bad bone in his body and the friendships he creates and the relationship dynamics he is involved in made me wish I could call him a friend in real life. Again, I am proclaiming all of my undying love here!

Turlo: A character worth mentioning as this book comes with a dose of political and strategic background and Turlo is one of high rank. He fits into the whole picture perfectly as someone with a noteworthy skillset demonstrating his leadership as well as the way he communicates with those below his rank. The distinction was made very clear through Marian’s clever way of showing when Turlo spoke as a leader (by addressing someone by rank) and when he spoke to someone as a friend (by addressing them by name). Small detail like this acts like a little wonder and serves to demonstrate the author’s commitment. Admirable, if I do say so myself!

Relationships and relationship dynamics in this book are by far the best aspects and yet equally as interesting and intriguing as the political plotline. I wish I could spill all of the beans about all the relationships in Empire’s Exile but I can’t. Each and every relationship in this book is worth discovery as most will surprise you, some will make you pray it won’t happen… and yet, they all offer their specific purpose either by being beautiful, bittersweet or not meant to be… No relationship in this book comes about quickly and without effort. Each dynamic evolves with an enjoyable slow, steady pace whilst keeping the reader gripped. Many a scene, involving one or other character, brought along breathtaking anticipation and the aforementioned damp T-shirt. When self-sacrifices are brought into the mix and the cost of happiness becomes steep, my hands were shaking and I was on the verge of tears.  Really, I can’t remember the last time I was so anxious reading a book 😀

Solid relationships are built on mutual loyalty and respect and in Empire’s Exile, all of the characters have a chance to win the reader over with their brilliant shiny existence. You see, this is how this series and this book are different- I, personally, have become so accustomed to authors changing directions and toying with reader’s emotions by applying unexpected and sinister ambitions through characters’ actions steering them down darker directions. Marian does not use this tool… I had to keep reminding myself to trust the author because having read the 2 previous books, I know Marian isn’t one to snigger with glee whilst killing off a favourite character or inserting dramatics just for the sake of effects. I really, really appreciate this when it comes to this series. It feels so mature and natural!

Writing: It is definitely worth paying attention whilst reading as the whole series is brimming with small yet important details. I cannot help myself when I describe the whole series as ‘earthy’. And it is definitely one of the more intelligent series I have read where I simply feel the author’s vast bank of knowledge leaps off the page. The descriptions of places, people and scenes, as well as the political intrigue and strategies were easy to visualise and understand, not to mention addictive.

Empire’s Exile is a goldmine of anticipation, apprehension, joys and hardships, survival and all-consuming, accepting love. There are a few difficult scenes in the book, but these balance out against the contrast of the ones worthy of celebration. There’s a theme of self-discovery, a theme of healing following a sexual assault, a theme of accepting the nature and truth of the things that have had to be done. A theme of accepting one’s duty. A theme of accepting love and the fact that one can be loved by many. A theme of trust and mature approach to adult relationships. There is a complicated mix of conflicts, allowing each character to shine with their own brand of strengths.

After reading Empire’s Daughter and Empire’s Hostage, Empire’s Exile is the ultimate reward! Simply, unapologetically love the direction the story took, how it opened up to the new horizons and possibilities, how it ended… The consistency of the ever-evolving plotlines and character development has been nothing short of brilliance and I can easily, heartily and warmly recommend this series to anyone willing to give a chance because if ever there is an indie gem worth the attention, this is it!

Empire’s Exile on Goodreads | Amazon UK | USA