I bought Empress mainly because I enjoyed Karen Miller's Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology and hoped to get something similar – flowing style, predictable but intriguing plot, likeable characters. Wrong. Empress is nothing like that, but sadly, that's nothing positive.
The beginning promises a lot – the protagonist, Hekat, is a young girl, born and raised in 'the savage North' where she, as a female child, is not even worth to be named and is only good to be sold as a slave. When that happens, however, Hekat's potential for beauty (ant thus a high price) brings her comfortable living, education and above all, a new-found confidence.
Hekat's personality and behaviour are a bit hard to explain. It's only logical that she bathes in the attention she is suddenly receiving, and she is stubborn by nature, but there are little to no doubts or fears born of her earlier life. She finds her confidence in being 'precious and beautiful', but when she learns that she is only precious because she will undoubtedly fetch a high price as a slave (and is therefore only good for her beauty), her faith in herself is not shattered. She escapes from her masters, decides mid-escape that she is god-chosen, and sacrifices her beauty so she would not be easily recognised. Hekat suddenly doesn't need her physical beauty to feel 'precious and beautiful'; she substitutes it with her connection to the god in the same moment she realises that she is 'in the god's eye'. It's all too rational, swift and unconvincing – Hekat has no second thoughts, her faith is absolute and despite everything that happened, she still feels precious and beautiful.
After that, the quality of the plot seems to deteriorate. Hekat doesn't grow as a character, she just gets more and more annoying. Sadly, she's the protagonist, so not even the more likeable characters such as Vortka and Zandakar can make the novel more enjoyable. I found Hekat more annoying than even Catelyn in ASOIAF (who is, for me, a synonym for an annoying character) – where Catelyn was whiny and overprotective, Hekat keeps repeating that she is precious and beautiful and likes to think that she is the smartest, the best and the most beloved of god. She also dislikes most of the people around her with the exception of her son, of whom she is obsessively overprotective.
I gave up on Empress on page 430. Maybe if the book were a bit shorter I could fight my way through it but as it is, I felt that for every interesting, plot-oriented page, there were three pages of Hekat being an annoying, unlikeable character. It also seemed to me that the book was getting worse, not better, so I saw no point in reading on. It's too bad – the book really has potential, but it got lost somewhere along the way.
DNF (did not finish)
Trin's review of Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology
My first DNF review! I was in a bit of a dilemma whether to post it or not, but in the end, I decided to post it anyway.
Also, sorry for not updating in such a long time! I was busy passing the last of my exams for this year and looking for a roommate. Now that both is taken care of, I can focus more on reading and reviewing.
Sunday, September 26, 2010