It’s actually been a number of years since I started the Empire trilogy, having picked up the series thanks to my familiarity with the Riftwar saga that spawned the trilogy, and a recommendation from one of my friends that it was in fact the superior of the two collections. And frankly I have to agree. The first two installments proved to be a great exploration of the feudal Japanese-like Tsurani empire who were one of the principle antagonists in the original saga, as readers joined the last daughter of the Acoma House which it finds itself on the brink of ruin, she plunges into the notoriously deadly Game of the Council to restore her family’s standing and ascend to the empire’s highest honour as the Servant of the Empire. The final book doesn’t disappoint, illustrating just how well this collaboration between Raymond E. Fiest & Janny Wurts truly worked as they raise the stakes in Mistress of the Empire with Lady Mara being forced to not only lay everything on the line for her house’s survival, but the very Empire itself. Many of the characters readers met along the way make their appearance, but it becomes quickly apparent that the bloody “Game” between the great houses continues unabated, and that the normally neutral Assembly of the Great Ones have even gotten involved. The politics in fact stretch to the very temples themselves, as Mara challenges the very nature of Tsurani culture and the perpetual conflict it cultivates and the resultant stagnation it spawns.
While it perhaps could have been a little shorter, it was still a very enjoyable read – especially the exploits of the Acoma spymaster Arakasi who shows just how riveting spycraft can be in a fantasy novel – and is high on my list of recommendations.