I will admit to not being a big fan of the Riftwar Saga. It certainly made a splash at the time, but I was unhappy with stretches of it, and have never had a desire to revisit it.

However, I read Daughter of the Empire… either shortly before or after that, I don’t recall, on a recommendation, and it lived up to it. DotE is a great, highly recommended book. I regret that it’s taken literal decades to get back to it, but I finally have, and the second book lived up to my memories of the first.

Mara is a maverick, a leader in a very traditional society who is not afraid of change. She has bent rules before, and now she plunges into actual questioning of her society’s values. Slaves from Midkemia (the main setting for the main series) were popular exotics at first, but their alien values and general intransigence has made them much less prized, but Mara ends up buying a lot of them for her under-staffed estates. It’s obvious from the first that they’re exceptional, as they’re organized to make a hash of the ordinary way of doing things (such as selling off clothes as they’re being distributed, and then complaining the allotment was short).

This is basically because they’re ably led by an intelligent, resourceful man who’s determined to get out. A lot of what follows certainly owes Shogun a debt, as Kevin ends up as a nearly co-equal central character for… say three-quarters of the book. He and Mara have a passionate relationship, and she absorbs a lot of information from him, and becomes ever more reform-minded.

Meanwhile, the politics of the Great Game continue, advancing the plot in somewhat uneven lurches. Also, some of the more dramatic parts of the middle of the Riftwar saga happen during this book, with the characters here present for one of the big ones (which was dramatic enough that I have dim memories of it from the original books roughly thirty years later). The Minwanabi clan is still more powerful than the Acoma, and continue to be the main source of threat.

The really nice thing here is that despite being the middle book of a trilogy, it stands well on its own. What happened in the first book is important, but you don’t really need to have read it to understand this one, and… where the next book is going isn’t really shown here. This is a separate complete book, and therefore does not suffer from the common ‘middle’ problem. Also, the Kindle version is in very good shape, and I didn’t note any of the usual OCR-induced typoes, though the formatting needed a little help.