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3
Feb 04
Tue

The Empire Trilogy

The Empire Trilogy (Daughter of the Empire, Servant of the Empire, Mistress of the Empire) is a fantastic read. I really enjoyed it. Co-authored by Feist and Wurts, you can really see the impact a woman has had on Feist’s writing (and I’m sure vice versa, although I haven’t read any of Wurts’ novels). This is positive given the fact that the protagonist is a woman. The writing is much richer, more subtle and much more insightful from a character perspective than Feist’s other work. In my opinion, it stands on the same level as the classic Magician (indeed, the timeline of the Empire Trilogy runs concurrently with it).

The story is about a woman named Mara who lives in Tsurannuanni, a society with a long-established tradition of honour and strict social hierarchy. The trilogy examines how she discovers and overcomes the shackles of mindless adherence to tradition. The society portrayed is definitely inspired by Japan’s, with a figurehead Emperor and a Warlord presiding over several clans and houses (a Shogun essentially). Ultimately Mara begins, with some outside influence, to question the old ways. Traditions, without sound reasons to ground them, are a stagnating force. The justification that a break from tradition is undesirable because of the tumult that comes with change is not sufficient enough reason against it. Conversely, there must be also be a logical reason to break from the tradition which may be one as simple as that the tradition is illogical.

Freedom from authoritarian rule, emphasis on the Rule of Law and the abolition of the caste system are big social reforms that the authors think should exist in order for society to progress, and for fairness and equality. Through the three books, strong and reasonable ethical arguments are made for them. However, there are more subtle perspectives of the authors which show a Western mindset in a novel which is otherwise quite perceptive about cultural relativism. One of these is the tacit approval of the monogamy Hokanu practices with Mara.

But nonetheless, the book makes good comments. “Bad gut feelings” and “it doesn’t feel right” attitudes either spring from experience, tradition, or from experience derived from tradition. When those attitudes come from the latter two, that is when close-mindedness exists and reason falls by the wayside. Not to say that we should be all reason and logic like the Vulcans – intuition can be valuable thing – but that intuition always be tempered with reason.

One mundane, but relevant example, is the use of credit cards for payment. When younger, we are often taught that credit cards are an evil thing that will lead you to a lot of debt (and they do!). But, if used properly, credit cards come with benefits that outweigh paying in cash – interest free periods and frequent flyer points being the most obvious. However, once that first instinct of avoiding credit card use is overcome, a new instinct is formed. And that is to avoid paying cash where necessary, because you get points if you use the card. Especially for large purchases, and even if you have to pay a 2% fee for credit card usage. Points redeem at a rate of about 1%, and in a 45-day interest free period it is unlikely you will be able to earn 1% interest on money. That is, you actually lose out. Yet, somehow paying by cash is instinctually undesirable.

  7:41pm (GMT +11.00)  •  Books  •   •  Tweet This  •  Comments (2)