Author: Tamora Pierce
Originally Published in November 1994
Review by Miriam Atkinson
Book Three of Tamora Pierce’s Immortals Quartet sees Daine, Numair, Alanna, the dragonet Skysong and members of the King’s Court sail to the nearby land of Carthak to meet with the Emperor Ozorne. While the adults try to forge a peace treaty between the kingdoms of Tortall and Carthak, teenager Daine has been asked to heal the birds in the Emperor’s menagerie with her wild magic. However things get complicated when Daine’s patron the Badger God, accompanied by the mysterious Graveyard Hag, decides to use Daine as a vessel to punish Carthak and its Emperor.
The Emperor Mage packs a lot into its plot and honestly it is not a book new readers can quickly jump into. I would definitely recommend reading the first two books in the series before starting on this one in order to avoid getting confused. The good news is that, like with the previous novels, The Emperor Mage is told from the point of view of protagonist Daine. The reader and Daine go on a journey together. Whatever Daine learns or experiences, the reader discovers at the same time. This shared experience makes the action packed plot easy to follow (assuming you’re familiar with the recurring characters of course!)
I mentioned this in my review for Wolf-Speaker, the second book in the series, but one of the things I love about The Immortals Quartet is how from book to book certain themes and plot threads are continually increased and expanded upon.
One example of this is Daine’s magical abilities. As Daine grows as a person so too does her magic. We’ve seen her go from learning about wild magic to mastering shape-shifting. In The Emperor Mage Daine is forced to both control and conceal her newly bestowed upon power of reanimating deceased animals. By continually increasing and adding to what Daine can accomplish with her magic, Pierce keeps the story interesting and engaging as both characters and readers can never be sure as to what is going to happen next.
Another continuing theme is that of trust which is woven into the themes of right/wrong and good/bad. The Immortal creatures themselves do take more of a back seat in this novel compared to the first two books. While the Stormwing Rikash returns and is featured throughout the novel more emphasis is placed this time on the human characters. This leads Daine to once again question her original view that the world is not perhaps as simple as ‘humans good, immortals bad’. In The Emperor Mage we are introduced to some great new characters including: Emperor Ozorne, Prince Kaddar, the female mage Varice, and the teacher Lindhall Reed. Whilst reading the book I could definitely empathise with Daine’s confusion as I too was continually changing my mind about who to trust. The narrative does a really effective job of placing the reader into Daine’s shoes.
All in all The Emperor Mage is a great third instalment in The Immortals Quartet. The stakes are raised from the previous two books and we get to see Daine develop more as a character. For me this story manages to improve on its predecessor by finding the right balance between recurring characters and new characters without overwhelming the reader. There are also plenty of mysterious twists and turns to keep the reader entertained.