Saturday 14 September 2019

#BookReview — Empire’s Legacy by Marian L Thorpe #HistoricalFantasy @marianlthorpe

Empire’s Legacy
By Marian L Thorpe

Book 1: Empire’s Daughter
Book 2: Empire’s Hostage
Book 3: Empire’s Exile

For twenty generations, the men and women of The Empire have lived separately, the women farming and fishing, the men fighting wars. But in the spring of Lena’s seventeenth year, an officer rides into her village with an unprecedented request. The Empire is threatened by invasion, and to defend it successfully, women will need to fight. 

When the village votes in favour, Lena and her partner Maya are torn apart. Maya chooses exile rather than battle, Lena chooses to fight. As Lena learns the skills of warfare and leadership, she discovers that choices have consequences that cannot be foreseen, and that her role in her country’s future is greater than she could have dreamed.

“Could history ever be accurate? Who decides what stories are told?”

History had never really interested Lena of Tirvan, that was until Casyn had ridden into their village. It was unheard of, you see, for a man to live in the village, let alone to work in the village. Many years ago it had been decided to partition the people of The Empire. The women farmed and provided the food, while the men fought and defended the kingdom’s large border. The men and the women of this great nation only came together twice a year at The Festival for reproductive purposes only. So Casyn’s arrival upset the order of things.

However, Casyn’s true intention was not to live in the village. He had been sent by the Emperor himself with a grave and dire warning. War was imminent, and all had to be ready to fight for their Emperor, their country and their freedom.

If they were to vanquish this foe, then they had to fight — together. At first, Lena had felt nothing but excitement at the prospect, for she longed for adventure. But changes to the law were not so easy for others, and Lena finds herself in an impossible situation. Does she stay and learn how to fight and defend her home? Or does she refuse? Her partner, Maya, has already made her choice. Now all Lena has to do is make hers.

However, all choices have consequences. For some, it meant death, for others banishment, but for Lena, she is to learn the most valuable of lessons — nothing is assured in times of war, and everyone is seemingly expendable.

From the tranquil beauty of the fishing village of Tirvan, to the harshness of life as a Guard for the Emperor. The Empire’s Legacy by Marian L. Thorpe is the mesmerising and unforgettable story of one young woman’s fight to save her home, her family, her relationship, and her kingdom.

With energetic prose, lavish attention to detail and a fantasy world that feels both familiar and foreign, The Empire’s Legacy series is as impressive as it is triumphant. Not only did it captivate me from the very first sentences, but it also continued to enchant until the very last full stop. Thorpe has depicted a hardworking community where everyone knows their place, and no one questions it — the law is the law. With the arrival of Casyn, Lena is forced to become someone she never dreamed she could be, and although Lena always longed for adventure, she finds herself on a path that will take her far away from everyone she ever knew and ever loved. Lena’s story is powerful in its simplicity. She has to fight, of that, there is no choice, but she also has to find out who, underneath it all, she really is. Lena embarks on an unpredictable and unprecedented journey from which as a reader it is near on impossible to turn away from.

The harshness of the battlefield and the tender moments of a love found in the unlikeliest of situations set this trilogy somewhat apart. As we follow our intrepid heroine through a war-torn country, we are also reminded that Lena is a young woman who simply wants to love and be loved. In between the relentless training and the battles, there are moments of tenderness that are breathtaking as well as heartbreaking. But all of the passion and the tears and the deplorable pain can be forgotten in the arms of a man who had guarded his heart so diligently, but who cared so deeply that all other loves paled in comparison. I have to be really careful not to give the plot away, as many characters in this book are part of the incredible journey of discovery that Lena finds herself on, but there is one that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Thorpe’s depiction of Cillian is outstanding. Initially, I wasn’t too sure about him, he is reticent and comes across as very angry towards Lena because of who she is and where she comes from, but as we move from Book 2 to Book 3, Cillian really came into his own. I absolutely adored him. Through him and Lena, Thorpe shows a tremendous understanding of human frailty, and indeed, the fragility of the heart — love can conquer all, but it also has the power to destroy, and we see this in both Lena and Cillian. Their relationship is complicated and at times uncertain, but it could never be accused of being dull. It is pure and honest and true — utterly irresistible.

Not only is this series a gripping account of love and war, but it also illustrates the political struggle that the Emperor of the West faces as he desperately tries to hold his country together in a time of constitutional crisis. Although Emperor Callan is very much a secondary character in this series, his decisions drive the story forward. I thought Callan came across as a just ruler who only wants what is best for his people, but surprisingly not at the greater expense of the individual, which makes him somewhat unique. And although he is tied to the laws of the land and to the treaties he has signed, he is astute enough to know when to push the political boundaries to get what he wants. Thorpe has certainly presented her readers with a leader that commands respect and I enjoyed reading about him.

Thorpe states that she has a life-long interest in Roman and post-Roman European history, and this certainly shines through in this fantasy world that she has created. Thorpe has depicted a land which is rich on the one hand, but desolate on another. The land is as vast and as beautiful as Tolkien’s middle earth but without the sentient beings that Tolkien’s books are so famous for. I thought it was a superb setting for this war and these characters. The land evoked a time long ago and a world forgotten. The Empire’s Legacy is an example of historical fantasy at its very best.

The concept of having a kingdom where men and woman are divided is one that I have not come across before. Thorpe has asked and answered the question — how would the dynamics of such a community work? It is an exciting notion and one that came across very realistic in the telling. When the dynamics are changed, and men and women find themselves together for an extended period, it was interesting to see how the characters coped. In Book 2, Lena finds herself in another kingdom where such restrictions are not in place and have never been in place. Here it is normal for a woman to fall in love with a man, and have a family together which made Lena’s bisexuality a little, maybe not taboo but something very close. Lena struggles with the foreignness of this, but her compassion and her understanding of heartbreak and love give her a sense of ancient wisdom — love is, after all, love.

I cannot praise this series enough. It is absolutely dazzling, and I am a now a huge fan of Marian L. Thorpe. The Empire’s Legacy would undoubtedly appeal to readers who loved Veronica Roth’s fabulous Divergent trilogy.

The Empire’s Legacy is without a shadow of a doubt, a box-set that commands your attention and deserves your respect.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Pick up your copy of
Empire’s Legacy

Marian L Thorpe

Not content with two careers as a research scientist and an educator, Marian L Thorpe decided to go back to what she’d always wanted to do and be a writer. Author of the alternative world medieval trilogy Empire’s Legacy, Marian also has published short stories and poetry. Her life-long interest in Roman and post-Roman European history informs her novels, while her avocations of landscape archaeology and birding provide background to her settings. As well as writing and editing professionally, Marian oversees Arboretum Press, a small publishing imprint run as a collective. Marian is currently writing Empire’s Reckoning, the next book in her series.

Connect with Marian: WebsiteTwitterGoodreads.  

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx